Theatre Review: THE LAST SHIP – The Lowry, Salford

Marvin Ford, Michael Blair, Matt Corner, Joe Caffrey and Richard Fleeshman in THE LAST SHIP

Marvin Ford, Michael Blair, Matt Corner, Joe Caffrey & Richard Fleeshman in THE LAST SHIP. Photo: Pamela Raith

Heartwarming and powerful, Sting’s musical THE LAST SHIP looks set to become a new British classic

Sting’s new musical, THE LAST SHIP, looks set to join the likes of classics such as BILLY ELLIOT, BRASSED OFF and THE FULL MONTY in the world of theatre. With its heartwarming and powerful story ready, there is a distinctive British feeling to the new musical which might explain why it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for THE LAST SHIP when it opened in America. Here, in the north of England however, where the audience is much more aware of the context of this story, it goes down a storm.

Drawing on his experiences of living near a shipyard in Tyneside, THE LAST SHIP tells the story of Gideon Fletcher, charismatically portrayed by Richard Fleeshman, who returns to home after 17 years at sea just as the local shipyard is closing. Understandably, the girl he left behind, Meg (Frances McNamee), isn’t best pleased to see him but this doesn’t deter Gideon from trying to win her back. Together, they’re a wonderful pair with McNamee playing Meg with fire and sass. IF YOU EVER SEE ME TALKING TO A SAILOR is possibly one of the most enjoyable numbers in the show and it’s obvious that she’s having a brilliant time playing this role and we’re having a brilliant time watching her.

Richard Fleeshman as Gideon Fletcher in THE LAST SHIP.

Richard Fleeshman as Gideon Fletcher in THE LAST SHIP. Photo: Pamela Raith

The supporting cast is equally great, with a colourful cast of characters such as Billy (Joe Caffrey), Adrian (Charlie Richmond) and the drunken Davey (Kevin Wathern). They all provide a warmth and a real sense of comradery within the show, but the real heart of the story is foreman Jackie White (Joe McGann) and his wife Peggy (Penelope Woodman). Their relationship is sweet and charming, and both characters become a driving force in the story. McGann’s performance is stern and serious, yet likeable and charming, while Hardwick’s character arguably has the biggest arc in the story.

The set is impressive, with an industrial looking structure and a clever use of projections to demonstrate scene changes. This allows for the set to perfectly fit the mood of every scene, even with just the slightest of alterations.

The songs are also wonderful, with plenty of folk style numbers, rousing anthems, reflective ballads and Sting’s rock sound woven throughout. This is matched by Lucy Hind’s movement, with plenty of foot stomping and hand clapping, giving everything a natural, impulsive feeling.

Full cast of THE LAST SHIP

Full cast of THE LAST SHIP © Pamela Raith

More importantly, THE LAST SHIP feels as if it’s about real people, real lives and real relationships. What starts as smaller, personal stories grow into something bigger as the yard workers strike in protest of the shipyard closure and the show becomes a rousing call to action. Here, the audience is reminded that things never have to be taken lying down and we are treated to a passionate, inspiring chorus, comparable to that of LES MISERABLES. It’s very apparent that every single cast member is passionate and enthusiastic about the cause and it really shows.

THE LAST SHIP is a poignant and rousing story with great songs and enjoyable characters. A must see!

5 out of 5 stars

THE LAST SHIP runs at The Lowry, Salford until 7 July 2018.