Arts Review: Titanic: The Musical

Dir. Laura Campbell, Mitchell Theatre, 25th-28th February

I have a confession: I’ve never seen Titanic. At least, not the whole way through. There’s a song I heard once about how ‘Husbands, and wives, little children lost their lives, Oh it was sad when that great ship went down’, sung to an unreasonably jaunty tune, that left me so traumatised that I never quite made it to the end. But for Cecilians’ 2015 mainstage I have broken that tradition, and, while it hasn’t saved me any tears, this is a production worth breaking it for.

This 82-strong cast tell the story with a sincerity which matches depth of the historic event. Without a jazz-hand in sight, or one note of Celine Dion, the production draws on the stories of the people who were aboard the R.M.S. Titanic’s maiden voyage, using the scale of the cast and skill of its stage design to portray the magnitude of the famous disaster. James Parnell-Mooney’s choreography keeps the larger numbers to small yet tight movements which draw your eye across every individual to emphasise the fact that each of those 2200 on the passenger list were people, not just names or numbers.

Musically, the show finds further ways to express the grand scale of the voyage, with a small orchestra with a big sound under the musical direction of Andrew McDivitt. While at times the music overpowers the voices and some lyrics are lost, the physicality of those on stage and the evocative nature of the sound carries the audience through these moments.

While the story of Titanic is a familiar one, this production focuses on the nuances of class structure  and the blame game playing out in the higher tiers of this floating city, a microcosm of early 20th century society. “The Blame”, performed by Ben Galloway, Luke Seawright and Lawrence Sharkey as Captain, owner, and shipbuilder respectively is a particularly powerful scene to this effect, as is Sharkey’s final number, “Mr Andrews’ Vision”, which serves as the visceral core of the play in its graphic description of the horrors about to unfold for those left behind on the ship.

It is impossible to mention every character who shapes the show, but special mention should be given to Mark Duncan’s portrayal of first class steward, Henry Etches, at once formidable and engaging, and providing an insightful guide to the class system at work. Meanwhile Imogen Parry and Elliott Fulton give the third class its romantic flair and Irish charm, and Marc Mackinnon and Stephanie Somerville give the first class some heart. Their duet, “Still” is a highlight, and it’s only a shame we don’t hear more of their voices earlier. Every single member of the principle cast and chorus however do great justice to their characters, named or otherwise.

And it is in their coming together that we see the Titanic, and the memory of all those aboard, really sail on, and believe in its poetry as well as its tragedy.

Caitlin caught up with Director, Laura Campbell, and Musical Director Andrew McDivitt to find out more about the show. To read the interview click here.

[Caitlin MacColl – @turningtoaverse]

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