NEWS: The Last Ship @ Northern Stage | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Boasting lyrics inspired by the childhood experiences of multiple Grammy winner Sting, The Last Ship tells the story of the demise of the North East shipbuilding industry through the lens of a community deeply impacted by the closure of the shipyards.

At Northern Stage from Monday 12th March until Saturday 7th April ahead of a UK and Ireland tour, Richard Fleeshman stars as Gideon Fletcher (with a supporting cast which includes Joe McGann, Charlie Hardwick and Frances McNamee), returning home after fifteen years at sea to a town and family in limbo, welded to the past and propelled into the future as a half-built ship towers over the terraces.

Lorne Campbell – one of the country’s most exciting and acclaimed directors – brings to life this epic tale of family, community and defiance. “It’s a passion project a long time in the making. Sting wrote his album The Soul Cages which was the genesis of a lot of the ideas, then he developed the songs for the show. Set in the mid-eighties and infused with the politics of that time and place, the show brings to life what it meant to be in the North East as heavy industry died, dealing with the long shadows that demise still casts.”

While a period piece, The Last Ship nevertheless speaks in a prescient way to the world today. “What happens when jobs go away will be the story of the next twenty years of human existence across the planet.” Lorne says. “Already this new wave of automation is taking jobs from people who work in supermarkets and warehouses, long-distance lorry drivers and taxi drivers.”

This is a story of defiance. A community coming together and saying ‘we don’t consent’

With the decline of heavy industry, an experience that happened not only in the UK but all across the world, The Last Ship has a resonance far beyond the region. “This is a story of defiance. A community coming together and saying ‘we don’t consent’, and that sense of possibility is enormously important. We’re so beleaguered and attacked by the news telling us to be afraid, that things are getting worse, while the evidence is all around us that the future can – and will – be a better place, but the only way to get there is by people believing we can. We have to come together to look after those in need and that is a message that people are very hungry to hear.”

While the subject matter is by necessity heady stuff, the production is a big musical show promising to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen. “Visually it’s unbelievable. We have an incredibly powerful, beautiful video backdrop working alongside the music bringing to life the landscape of the North East, shaped as it is by heavy industry and the astonishing scale that brings.”

The score also sits upon the Northumbrian tradition. “There are all kinds of folk sounds and orchestration harking back to a further past, a deeper cultural connection. The music does that incredible thing of making everything so direct and immediate in what is a big emotional, human story for today. It’s certainly not just ‘do you remember when we built ships hinny’?”

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