Sting’s new musical The Last Ship is close to his heart, and this British musical captures the heart and soul of the people of Tyneside when they fear they are going to lose it all.
Inspired by Sting’s 1991 album The Soul Cages, and his own childhood experiences, The Last Ship is a powerful and political musical about great defiance. After working on the production for seven years with a stint on Broadway, the musical is back home and travelling the UK to tell the story of the Shipyards in the North East of England.
With a new book by Lorne Campbell, alongside Sting’s music and lyrics it is a musical set in the 1980s that captures the heart of a town as they fight against the government. When the shipyard is threatened with closure, the town unites to fight back.
Intertwined within the story is a romance between Gideon, a sailor who returns to the town after 17 years on the ship, and his childhood sweetheart Meg. Richard Fleeshman plays the role of Gideon, a dashing and charismatic sailor. Fleeshman’s performance appears effortless as he convincingly portrays the layers within the role. With beautifully crisp vocals, his performance is charged with emotion. When he arrives back in Tyneside, he discovers that not only did he leave meg broken hearted but he left her pregnant, and their past begins to unravel.
Frances McNamee shines as Meg, whose resilient attitude refuses to let Gideon back into her life. Her first number If You Ever See Me Talking To A Sailor not only showcases her tremendous vocals but her fearless attitude. However, as the story progresses we see her more vulnerable side in touching and tender moments.
Leading the uproar is Jackie White (Joe McGann) whose strong partnership with his wife Peggy (Charlie Hardwick) are at the forefront of the action. Their dedication to ensuring that the last ship sails is the core of the storyline. The couple instantly seizes the hearts of the audience with their sheer love for each other which is beautifully played out on stage.
The staging is a visual masterpiece as the design is revolutionary. 59 Productions have created a dynamic set using innovative lighting. Whether it’s shadows depicting the past, slick scene changes or atmospheric lighting, the simplicity of the shipyard is transformed remarkably into different locations.
Although it could do with a little tightening and sharpening up around the edges, and a few moments are lost due to the strength of the accents, it’s an impressive piece of new musical theatre. Drawing upon real lives, it feels entirely raw and there are moments that are incredibly moving.
The strong music displaying the hardships the people of Tyneside faced packs a real punch. The authentic passion and striking harmonies in the ensemble numbers create anthems that really stir your emotions. With a powerful ending as they plead for equal pay, restoration of the NHS and politicians to listen to us, the message truly resonates today. Community spirit and drive is what keeps the world going round and what keeps people pushing along.
The Last Ship is a triumphant British production that has immense strength and honesty. Sting’s poignant score wraps around the moving story of a defiant town bursting with real heart.
Currently on tour across the UK, tickets and information can be found on their website here.