The Last Ship is an original musical with music and lyrics written by Sting. The story is inspired by Sting’s own childhood experiences. He grew up in the shipbuilding town of Wallsend and left at the age of 18 to pursue his musical career. Sting felt an emotional debt to his childhood community to tell their story. He previously recorded the album The Soul Cages which examines the same story.
Director/Book Writer Lorne Campell mentions in his programme notes that much of the company is from the UK and was deeply affected by the deindustrialization of the 1980’s. Violent protests erupted in many areas as industry was shut down, hundreds of people were left without employment and communities that relied on these industries were decimated.
This musical is packed with singing talent. If you are a Sting fan, this is a chance to see him perform life. This is not the best I have heard him musically but singing and musical theatre singing are two different skill sets. Sting is just way more effective as a concert performer. His acting was stiff for a lot of the show and his blocking and movement seemed unnatural. There were two performers that particularly stood out for me, Frances McNamee who played the role of Meg Dawson and Sophie Reid who played the role of Ellen Dawson. Both performers had some stand out moments and hit some impressive notes.
The set was stunningly designed by 59 Productions. It was mainly created with various projections but they effectively created the ship, buildings as well as utilizing clips of a moving female protest which was one of the more powerful points in the show.
The score is pleasant enough but not entirely memorable. Also, the acting isn’t entirely believable. There was a particular moment in the play when Sting’s character Jackie White dies and Jackie Morrison who plays his wife, doesn’t even seem emotional about this event. She just flippantly tosses her dead husband over to a colleague and quickly walks off to join the women’s march. I understand people deal with death in all sorts of ways but this scene was played very lightly and didn’t have the punch it should have.
I am sure The Last Ship will have an enthusiastic audience who will be thrilled to see Sting live. This story might resonant more for people from the UK that experienced these events first hand. For me, it was a surprisingly average musical written by an immense musical talent.