The Last Ship – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
4 Jun 2018 – 9 Jun 2018
Gideon left his family and his girlfriend Meg behind. He had the choice of working in the ship yards or becoming a sailor and he decided on the latter. Now some seventeen years later he has decided to return. His father died but he did not come home for the funeral. He has returned for a different reason, to rekindle his love affair with Meg. But much has changed in the city in the intervening years. The ship yards that give life and created employment are facing closure and the workers could be made redundant. There is also a surprise of a more personal nature waiting for Gideon on his return!
This is a musical based on a concept album released by Sting in 2013. If you’re expecting a jukebox musical working through Sting’s back catalogue, you will be disappointed as it is largely original work. The text for the original version of this musical was written by John Logan and Brian Yorkey and it opened on Broadway in June 2014. It received some stinging (sorry, couldn’t resist) criticism and had a brief run before closing. It has since been rewritten in Lorne Campbell (who is also the director of this production) and was staged in Newcastle, in March of this year. This time around the reviews are positive, possibly as it made a lot more sense in its home town rather than in New York.
While the story is based around a love story (or two in truth), there is also a strong emphasis on the city itself. The play is set in the 80s and tells the tale of the strong right wing government of the time facing off against the unions. We see it from the worker’s perspective and how the closures affect their families and way of life. They know nothing else other than shipbuilding so have no choice but to fight for their livelihoods. There is even a female politician wearing a blue suit, reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher, to play the villain of the piece.
The set also deserves a mention as it is hugely impressive. While there is very little physically on stage, with a steel gantry overhead and ladder up to it, there is dazzling use of projections that really capture the imagination. They recreate ship yards, churches and pubs with admirable detail and immerse the actors inside them.
The production works well and you feel you get to know many of the characters over the course of the play. There are a number of small strands and each individual is given depth and a few moments to share their story. Much will depend on how you react to the music itself, but it would be hard not to have your heart strings tugged by this tale. There are some choral pieces for the full cast that work particular well. This is a cut above your average tale with Sting making the transition from rock star to theatre buff look easy!