Touring – reviewed at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Guest reviewer: Soraya Scrivener
CTP rated this production directed by Thom Southerland as five stars in 2016. Many of that talented cast has returned for this tour. I can see why it would deserve five stars at the intimate Charing Cross Theatre but disappointingly in the vast Mayflower Theatre it does not work quite so well. I expected more to David Woodhead’s simplistic set with overuse of a moving staircase and the sub plot scenes are ones that I yearned to be closer in proximity to. Southerland’s direction and Cressida Carré’s musical staging are pleasingly busy and poignant. The highlight of which is the stokers’ movement in ‘Barratt’s Song’ with the clever overlap of scenes as the maids set the first class dining table as Barratt stands upon it.
Musical director Mark Aspinall, with a mere five other musicians, does a remarkable job with the memorable score. This is a strong ensemble piece with some beautiful counterpoint and the full cast must be praised for the outstanding result. ‘There She Is’ and ‘Godspeed Titanic’ certainly pull at the heart-strings with their stunning harmonies.
Passengers boarding the ship from the stage through the auditorium and exit doors into corridors is quite distracting and breaks the atmosphere. However, the use of smoke at the back of the stage for exits and entrances is especially effective.
Sadly, I do not have room to mention all 25 members of the cast. Greg Castiglioni as Andrews, Joel Parnis as Fleet the lookout and Lewis Cornay as bandmaster Hartley are particularly in fine voice. Victoria Serra impresses as the fiery Kate McGowan as does Matthew McKenna as Etches, the first class steward. Claire Machin delights as Alice Beane trying to hobnob with all the aristocrats. A goose-bump moment of the night for me was ‘The Proposal/The Night Was Alive’. Oliver Marshall as Bride the telegrapher and Niall Sheehy as Barrett the stoker shines throughout this number and the whole evening.
The lifeboat scene was powerfully tear-jerking in the 2nd act. My imagination at this point did struggle to fill in the number of people on stage. Perhaps a few more cast members would help here and prevent overall potential confusion with multiple roles. The audience were clearly moved by the list of all those that lost their lives with the survivors in turn quoting things such as “I’ll hear those voices for the rest of my life.”
This dignified production has a glorious and moving score with a story full of aspirations, hope, love, ambition and ultimately tragedy. A fantastic performance which deserved the standing ovation. My only wish was to be seated closer in a more intimate setting.