Sunday, 15 April 2018

REVIEW: Titanic at the Mayflower Southampton

It is 106 years since the Titanic set sail from Southampton and sank a few days later on the morning of 15th April 1912 with the loss of over 1500 people. Many families in the City were affected by the event although it often remained an unspoken story in those families for years after. It is therefore very special that this musical based on the event should open its tour in the City and that emotional connection is drawn out so clearly in the closing scenes as the rescued passengers face the list of names who lost their lives before singing a powerful reprise of the best number in the show "Godspeed Titanic". It provides a climatic conclusion to a production which sadly fails to reach this level in the proceeding two hours.

The musical was written by Maury Yeston and Peter Stone and won Tony's on Broadway in 1997 but was not staged in the UK until 2013 . This production started in 2016 to great acclaim in the intimate venue of Charing Cross Theatre under the direction of its artistic director, Thom Southerland and much of the design and many of the cast has been transferred into this touring show. However the Mayflower stage is one of the largest outside the West End, and deserves a bigger vision and production to fill the stage . The sheets of metal and rivets that back the stage and proscenium arch echo the ship but don't create a real sense of the ship various locations.The first class lounge and state rooms look like the outside decks and the multi purpose steps are overused to try and create the lookout and various staircases and gangways.

The opening scene bizarrely has the cast leaving the ships deck on stage to enter the ship through the auditorium , it does not look right at all. Only in the second half when the lifeboats are cast adrift Into the auditorium leaving the rest to die on the ship does this direction work. The show lacks a movement director to effectively school the large cast on the huge stage and the choreography rarely excites ; only with the stokers in the engine room during "Barrett's song" and "Lady's Maid" with the three Kate's do we get a glimpse of what might have been.

The challenge is how to represent the 2000 plus crew and passengers on stage and there is no central character to drive the narrative , so we are presented short sketches of the characters intermingling on the ship competing for our attention and interest.There are some very good performances that rise above the production limitations including Philip Rham as Captain Edward Smith (43 years at sea without an incident), Niall Sheehy as the stoker, Claire Machin as Alice a second class passenger and Kate,a third class passenger (Victoria Serra).

The Titanic story has such built in emotions with those setting sail with such optimism of a new life or pride in the great new ship turning to despair and panic as the ship sinks that it ought to engage us easily but there are too many characters in need of redirection for the large stage and it is a challenging score that creates few truly memorable moments. 

However for all that, the final sequence from the haunting "No moon" through to the reprise of the anthem "Godspeed Titanic" in front of the lost souls memoriam cloth still touches and reminds us of Southampton's loss.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★

Seat: Q in stalls | Price of Ticket: £35
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