Leeds Grand Theatre – Until Saturday 5th May 2018
Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood
Sting, under the direction of Lorne Campbell, brings this critically acclaimed musical, The Last Ship, to Leeds which is currently part of the UK and Ireland tour. The musical is based on the singer’s music and lyrics and looks back to the ship building community in the Tyne and Wear during its industry decline in the 1970s.
The story is about Gideon Fletcher (Richard Fleeshman), a sailor, who returns home after spending 17 years in the Navy and is confronted with the past and present tensions concerning his family, particularly his ex girlfriend, Meg (Frances McNamee) and the town’s community. The demise of the shipbuilding industry is evident with their local ship yard closing and the town is determined to fight saving the ship and the yard. This is lead by Jackie (Joe McGann), the yard’s foreman, and his wife Peggy (Charlie Hardwick). The story is in similar vein to Sting who grew up in a similar community, left the town to pursue a music career, and returned to tell this tale.
Sting sought inspiration from his album, The Soul Cages, to generate the moving and powerful musical score and lyrics to the musical. The musical numbers includes the memorable Island of Souls, All This Time, When We Dance and The Last Ship and tells this political and personal stirred story – this is quintessential to many communities who earnestly fought to save the towns’ industries and the livelihoods it generated. One can think of the coal mining towns and villages’ role during the 1984/85 Miners Strike. Each song sung depicts the emotions, passions and the souls of the community and how much the shipyard and the livelihood mean to them. The songs are sung with such conviction from individuals and united in chorus from the ensemble.
59 Production’s staging is stunning with its hi-tech backdrop and life size ship yard from where the story is told. The space is utilised very well with successful transitions being made between each scene. The lighting and sounds, courtesy of Matt Daw and Sebastian Frost, compliment the staging particularly with the notion that one is by the sea and the waves crashing in the background.
The Last Ship is delivered excellently from the cast who perform wholeheartedly and in unison, particularly the songs’ choruses, from beginning to the end. Every single performer has a part to play and impressions are certainly left. A lot of thought, heart and soul have been put into the story along with Sting’s musical and lyrical ingenuity. It is a realistic poignant beautiful musical to see and is highly commended and recommendable during its tour.