Charing Cross Theatre – until 6 August 2016
Can I start with a confession? I never really “got” Titanic… Sure, Maury Yeston’s music and Peter Stone’s book had the requisite bombast, but I’d never seen much evidence of the heart. Leave it to Thom Southerland and Danielle Tarento to prove me wrong again, as they did with Grand Hotel last year… Maybe next time I’ll have learned my lesson!
At once a poem
And the perfection
Of physical engineering.
We all know the story of Titanic, it’s etched into the minds of everyone in some form or another, but here it’s really the story of people and told without a note of Celine Dion to be heard! This is a love story told in many forms and with many results… Firstly, we have the men who love this seemingly indestructible vessel, Ismay who owns her, Andrews who designed her and Captain Smith who guides her. Each in their way has staked their claim to the ship, from Ismay’s wonder at her in In Every Age (beautifully delivered by David Bardsley) to the Captain treating her maiden voyage as his farewell to the sea.
There are conventional love stories too; each of the three classes of passenger are characterised by a couple. In first class Isidor and Ida Straus (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street) whose devotion to each other and to staying together to the end is guaranteed to have the audience weeping. Down in second class the Beanes clash over the glass ceiling above them. Peter Prentice’s Edgar
knows his lot in life while Alice dreams of rubbing elbows with the Vanderbilts and their like in the salon. When Prentice and Claire Machin come together, there’s a gleam in their eyes that epitomises the hope and opportunity ahead for all the passengers at the start of the voyage!
Love crosses the class boundaries too, with Lady Caroline
Neville eloping to marry below her
station due to her love for Charles Clarke. Helena Blackman and Douglas
Hansell both beautifully convey the stigma of their actions and the
excitement of breaking away for the still pervasive air of Victorian stuffiness
in I Give You My Hand.
Act 1 brilliantly build the relationships between these
couples and their love for each other… only to make the second act all the more
devastating as so many of the couples are split and one pair make the brave
choice to stay together and meet their fate. The most painful reminder of
tragedy comes though from the stiff upper lip of the crew, typified by James Gant’s unflustered Etches who
stares death in the face with quiet dignity while Scott Cripps’ Murdoch, unable to cope with the guilt of being in
command of the bridge as the ship grinds against the iceberg, takes his own
Amid all this the most poignancy comes not in song or
through the acting of the cast but when suddenly we’re plunged into silence and
confronted with the names of the 1,517 people who died on that fateful night. I
defy anyone not to be moved in that moment!
I could go on enthusing about this production and listing
the cast I’ve not yet mentioned (they all richly deserve the recognition) but
suffice to say that every person in the Charing
Cross Theatre took to their feet in rapturous applause at the finale and I
daresay a few, like me, were once again wondering just how Southerland and
Tarento can keep getting it so right!