Titanic the Musical, Redgrave Theatre

9 03 2012

The “unsinkable ship” Titanic sank almost 100 years ago to the day, on April 15, 1912. This year, marking the anniversary of the sinking which still holds a grim fascination, there will be everything from commemorative crisps to beer, from a Julian Fellowes miniseries on ITV to countless documentaries.

UWE Centre for Performing Arts have made the brave decision to mark this centenary year by staging the Tony-winning musical of the disaster, which opened on Broadway in 1997.

This was the same year as the release of James Cameron’s film starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, a retelling that any modern drama of the sinking will inevitably be judged against.

Of course, an amateur production in a school theatre with a wobbly funnel can never hope to compete with one of the biggest grossing films of all time and an estimated $200 million budget, but that means that the human stories within the 11 decks, from first class to third class, need to come aft.

And so they did, from the stoicism of bellboy Olly Battersby, the bloody-mindedness of ship owner James Ismay (Alex Milner), who urged Captain EJ Smith (James Bonser) to go faster and faster, the grim calculations of ship designer Thomas Andrews (Alex Nodes), the inevitable love stories between passengers, and bravery and resolve as the iceberg is struck and the inevitable realised.

Simply staged in a John Cousins-designed set that did not always do as it should, a raised platform became the bridge, underneath which a small area doubled as boiler and radio rooms. In here, we found two of the most likeable characters, Jake Wheeler as radioman Harold Bride, and George Caporn as stoker Frederick Barrett.

One of the most memorable passengers was Alice Beane, played by Alice Dalrymple, starstruck by many of the famous guests on board and wittily introducing each in turn as they boarded, hen-pecking her husband until an emotional farewell revealed her true feelings for him.

While the steerage – with a stand-out performance from Olivia Davidson as Kate McGowan – wore no more than rags, the costumes of the first class passengers, designed by John Cousins, were colourful and extravagant, especially when they glided around the stage in a well-choreographed dance routine by Jacquie Bell, a scene stolen by two children, the older girl who knew all the moves, the little boy not quite so adept.

Music was provided live by an accomplished orchestra of 21 led by musical director and producer Ian Henderson, and they are to be commended, especially if the pit was as blisteringly hot as the audience’s seats, enduring temperatures as hot as the Atlantic that fateful night was cold.

Titanic the Musical is an ensemble piece, with many of the cast filling the Redgrave Theatre stage having important roles in a production directed by Alex Turasiewicz that is not only brave but genuinely sad and moving, and also heroic and inspiring.

Titanic the Musical is at the Redgrave Theatre until March 10. Click here for more info.


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9 03 2012
Amy-Louise Webber

Reblogged this on Amy-Louise Webber.

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