The Last Ship Review

York Theatre Royal until Saturday 30th June 2018.

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

5*****

Sting’s debut musical The Last Ship has hit York Theatre Royal this week as part of a successful UK tour. Word had certainly gotten around and Sting’s involvement was obviously a big draw, as the theatre was packed out, a great sight to see. Unfortunately, we were hit with a delay of 30 minutes due to technical difficulties, but eventually the show did go on, and what a show it was.

Inspired by Sting’s 1991 album, The Soul Cages, The Last Ship is an account of family, community and defiance, inspired by Sting’s own childhood experiences and the shipbuilding industry in Wallsend. It tells the story of a shipyard facing closure, with one last ship not quite finished, that the authorities just want to break up for scrap. It is at times quite a political piece with a battle of the unions and authorities, harking back to Maggie Thatcher and the miners’ strike. Ultimately though, the workers unite and the last ship will be built.

From the get go the stage is buzzing with the voices of all the cast members singing, along with the powerful stomping that really hits home with a punch, which sets the scene for what is to come, a passionate play about community.

Interlaced with the ongoing political story we see Gideon Fletcher (Richard Fleeshman), a sailor returning after 17 years to his former life and sweetheart, Meg Dawson (Frances McNamee) that he abandoned, and unbeknownst to him, pregnant. Fleeshman has such an amazing rich voice, that I loved hearing him sing. Most of his interactions with McNamee were through song, and she also delivered with her powerful vocals, and she can certainly hold a note.

Another branch of the story is the tale of well respected foreman Jack (Joe McGann) and his wife Peggy (Penelope Woodman). Woodman has stepped into the role as understudy this week due to illness and gives a superb performance as Peggy which I cannot see being surpassed. McGann has that raspiness feel of the working man who is just trying to do the best for all his men, the true leader who inspires.

All the cast are really quite excellent, delivering powerful performances. Katie Moore, who plays Ellen Dawson, the daughter, and delivers the final inspirational speech.

The set, created by 59 productions, appears simple, but really wasn’t, and was very effective. As well as the use of scaffolding, the art of projection is also used to create quick and incredible scene changes, at times quite breath taking.

This is a powerful show that really packed a punch and at times gave me goosebumps. Thoroughly deserving the standing ovation that it received. Grab a ticket if you can before it moves to its last destination at the Lowry in Salford.

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