★★★★ | Titanic

It’s always difficult to reinterpret a story we all know as well as that of the Titanic – certainly, the ending can be no surprise (SPOILER: THE SHIP SINKS), but this brand new production does manage to stir up some new human stories from onboard the ill-fated vessel.

Unfortunately, it does this on a set that I found as uninspiring as the music. On a story we know this well, emotional investment is crucial and it is a huge disservice to an otherwise excellent musical that so little feeling comes across. This was, in no way, the fault of the excellent actors and musicians, but rather of the sound design which simply didn’t carry any real feeling forward. I first felt a stirring of emotion towards the end of Act 2, with the heart-breakingly touching song Still by the elderly Straus couple (performed wonderfully by Judith Street and Dudley Rogers) as the ship disappears beneath the waves.

Other notable performances came from James Austen-Murray, Jonathan David Dudley, Philip Rham and Simon Green.

The passengers are introduced during a lively number, according to their class, and the aspirations that the Titanic carried are conveyed incredibly well throughout, but never more so than during Lady’s Maid, midway through Act 1.

Cressida Carre’s choreography is lively and inventive, and in keeping with the emotion that the music is intended to carry, as is excellent direction from Thom Southerland. Unfortunately, this is also let down by some aspets of the set design. I have a fairly vivid imagination, but transforming a black stage with a single white table, set in a distinctly average style, into a first class saloon was just too much for even my mind to manage.

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Despite these few failings, Titanic carries a particular magic through its inventive writing and original score. I particularly enjoy that the focus is on four separate couples – just the right amount of stories to get involved with on a production of this scale, and the interplay between the ship’s designer, owner and captain is excellent. It is very worth seeing and, if you can allow the design issues to float by, you will be fully immersed in a very enjoyable production with some truly excellent performances.

TITANIC plays at the Southwark Playhouse until 31 August. Tickets are £22 from

 

http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/titanic