The Last Ship, showing for just one week at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), is a powerful gritty musical full of politics and foot stamping anthems. The Last Ship is set in the Thatcher era and rotates around the lives of hard grafting working class men and women affected by the decline of the British Shipyard industry.
The musical is inspired by Sting’s 1991 album, The Soul Cages. The Last Ship is a personal project for Sting. He left his shipbuilding hometown of Wallsend when he was just 18 years old. In Sting’s own words “I abandoned my town. I didn’t want to work there, I didn’t want to be a part of it, so now at my age I want to go back and say thank you for what you gave me. You formed me, you formed my ambition…I owe you the honour of trying to tell your story.”
No doubt Sting leaving his own home town is where the inspiration for the story starts. With a young Gideon (Richard Fleeshman) rejecting the almost certainty of following his father’s footsteps and working at the shipyards. Instead he runs away with the Navy and sails the world.
Gideon leaves behind his girlfriend Meg (Frances McNamee), with the empty promise that he will return. He does return, but it’s 17 years later. He also has the naive romantic intention of reuniting with his former girlfriend. But of course Meg has different ideas. Shunning him off with a stellar solo performance of “If you Ever See me Talking to a Sailor”.
On Gideon’s return he is faced with the demise of the ship building industry. With a sense of shame for abandoning the love of his life and his family, he tries to put things right and make amends.
Whilst the relationship between Gideon and Meg provides chemistry, it is the relationship between foreman Jackie (Joe McGann) and Charlie (Peggy White) which really tugs on the heartstrings. McGann is well cast as foreman Jackie, a stoic and yet gentle character who is determined to stand-up for his workmates no matter what.
The musical score, is a perfect match for the story, and is full of gusto. Whilst all the solo performances were first class, it was the choral renditions throughout that really impressed. Parts of which I would compare to that of a strong Welsh male voice choir. There was also a heavy undercurrent of Irish folk music which ensured a nautical feel to the score.
The stage production is worth mentioning as it was truly amazing. Through the clever use of moving black and white projections onto the set they really brought the industrial town and the shipyard itself to life. Cloudy skylines depicted the mood. With dark stormy skies representing gloom and the occasional golden sunset giving a glimmer of hope.
To sum up, The Last Ship is a gritty, stoic and emotive musical. A tale of community and solidarity in the face of hardship which had me completely gripped from start to finish.
The Last Ship is showing at the WMC until 19th May 2018
Tickets from £18.00
Booking at: www.wmc.org.uk
Thank you to Wales Millennium Centre for inviting us to the opening night of The Last Ship
All photos courteous of the Wales Millennium Centre