Sunday, 29 September 2013

Titanic at the Southwark Playhouse

Following a number of theatre fan friends' and acquaintances' recommendations I'd booked myself a passage to see this critically acclaimed musical by Maury Yeston and Peter Stone at the Southwark Playhouse in London.

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I went on the last day of it's production run. It certainly explained why the last two performances were sold out because of the great reviews it received.  House programmes were also sold out and I've had to wait for my programme to be reprinted which since then I've kindly received.

Everyone knows the story of the Titanic, the "unsinkable ship" (Titanic the movie, Cameron, 1997) that sunk! Also the popular James Cameron movie featuring the story of Jack (Leo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet).  However this musical explores the characterisation of the passengers and crew on the fateful voyage.  I loved how Yeston's music and Stone's story focused on the individual characters.  You know that a lot of thought has gone into this show and how this link nicely with the facts.

The musical began with the introduction of Mr Andrews (Greg Castiglioni) when he examined the architectural drawings of the ship.  It was nice to see Greg in another production after seeing him in The Phantom of the Opera UK Tour during 2012/13.  This follows by Mr Ismay (Simon Green) who celebrated the launch of the Titanic and it being the 'ship of dreams' (Titanic the movie, Cameron, 1997) through the song, In Every Age.  Like Greg, I saw Simon as Monsieur Andre on the Phantom Tour.

The company opened the musical with Opening and Godspeed Titanic.  The First Class passengers celebrated their voyage toasting What A Remarkable Age This Is and the three Kates (Victoria Serra, Scarlett Courtney and Grace Eccle) in Third Class dreamed of a better life in America singing Lady's MaidAlice Beane (Celia Graham), travelling in Second Class, was keen to mix with the rich and famous and this was reflected in I have danced with the First Class passengers.  Her quest was comically reflected throughout the show even during the poignant times in Act Two.  I saw Celia as Christine in Love Never Dies numerous of times during 2011.  It was great seeing her again perform.

Act One gave a thorough introduction to some of the passengers on the voyage and focused on the romances between four couples on the voyage: Kate and Jim (Shane McDaid); the Beanes (Celia Graham and Oliver Hemborough), the Strausses (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street) and the Clarkes (Claire Marlowe and Nadim Naaman).  Eventually the story built up a very powerful and emotive climax when the crew learnt that the ship had hit an iceburg.

Beginning of Act Two revealed the sudden realisation of the ill fated ship, Wake up, Wake up and Dressed in..your pyjamas explored the shock, disbelief and denial among the first and second class passengers.  There was the haunting number sung by Isidor and Ida Strauss (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street) and the moving reflection by Mr Andrews (Greg Castiglioni) in Mr Andrew's Vision.  We listened to the very poignant The Foundering when the survivors had witnessed what had happened.

The most emotional moment for me in the musical was when Barrett (James Austen-Murray), Bride (Matthew Crowe), Charles Clark (Nadim Naaman) and company singing We'll Meet Tomorrow during the ship's evacuation to the lifeboats.  It was very moving, emotive and poignant.

I felt nothing but awesome respect for the incredible creative team.  Firstly, Yeston and Stone for the story, music and lyrics which were powerful, passionate and emotional.  There was the perfect direction by Thom Sutherland and the musical equivalent by Mark Aspinall and the six piece orchestra.  A big thanks to Danielle Tarento, Producer and Casting Director who has chosen a strong and talented cast which prompted me to book to see Titanic in the first place.

I absolutely love the theatre space at Southwark Playhouse.  We were sat around the space and I personally felt part of the action which happened centrally in the space.  It is certainly a different experience to the traditional staging.  I liked how they kept the use of props to a minimum but were very effective in telling the story.  The costumes worn were appropriate to the Edwardian era and the sailing of the Titanic.  Credit is given to David Woodhead, set and costume designer, whose work linked nicely with the good lighting and sounding by Howard Hudson and Andrew Johnson.

Titanic was amazing! I loved this production and the musical is one of the most moving theatrical pieces I've ever seen.  I've experienced one emotional journey which had begun with excitement and excitement until the very end of Act One.  In Act Two I felt panic, disbelief and poignancy.  A mixture of emotions all around!  Titanic is a musical I highly recommend for any theatregoer.  Sadly, this production has closed now but I do hope there could a replica of this production either transferred to the West End or on a UK Tour.

Two reviews on this Titanic production I highly recommend are Ignited By A Dream and Thoughts of a Blue Eyed Girl.

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