Friday, April 27, 2018

'The Last Ship' by Sting

27 April 2018

On Thursday we were at the Derngate in Northampton to see 'The Last Ship' - Sting's musical about the fight to prevent closure of a Wallsend shipyard in the 1980s. Originally produced on Broadway in 2014, this completely revised version, with a new book by Lorne Campbell (who also directs), has been getting great reviews. Its tale of a working community pulling together to oppose the forces of capitalism has been compared to 'The Full Monty' and 'Brassed Off' but 'The Last Ship' is a bleaker show. A little slow to get started, the second half of the musical increases the narrative pace and builds to a powerful emotional climax. Sting's music very effectively blends North East folk styles with pop, alluding in places to the clog tradition (though I would have loved to see a proper clog dancing number in the show). Joe McGann leads an impressive cast in this touring Northern Stage production, with particularly fine singing from Frances McNamee  and Richard Fleeshman (you could imagine Sting himself signing some of Fleeshman's ballads). The ensemble choral singing was very strong, making the most of the distinctive North East accents. But the real star of the show was the amazing set and design by 59 Productions which makes very effective use of projection to create the massive scale of the shipyard on the large Derngate stage. The visual effects, blending live action and the physical set with video and lighting, were stunning.

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