Tag Archives: Annie Grace

REVIEW: The Last Ship – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Sting’s musical love song to his Tyneside homeland, The Last Ship, is in his own words to: “repay a debt” to the area he left early in his career.

Starting life unsuccessfully in the US, it finally comes home to an audience with whom the story resonates: mid-80s, Thatcherism, the Conservative pursuit of the Trades Unions and the decline of the British ship-building industry. Director Lorne Campbell has re-worked the book from its initial run and the improvements are many.

Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, two weeks shy of the completion of a commission to build a ship, the local consortium goes into receivership, the vessel, literally destined for the scrap yard. Inspired by the Clyde shipbuilders ‘work in’ of 1971, the workers, lead by shop steward Jackie White (Joe McGann) occupy the yard in order to complete the ship. Into this situation arrives Gideon Fletcher (Richard Fleeshman), home from 17 years at sea, to find Meg (Frances McNamee), the girl he left behind (unbeknownst to him, pregnant at the time), still here in town.

As evidenced by the success of Billy Elliot, with which, inevitable comparisons will be drawn, a British-specific storyline that resonates with an audience will always be a winner and it is largely thus with The Last Ship. It is nostalgic and unashamedly tugs at the heartstrings but, it is sufficiently compelling despite the message it somewhat heavy-handedly tries to hammer home. It’s not without its faults though: the hefty running time, due in no small part to an excess of songs that do little to advance the story and poor diction from a number of cast members that renders the lyrics inaudible, turn it into a theatrical endurance test at times. The plot is a slow burn and takes the entirety of the first act to establish itself. It must also be said that the characterisations are uneven, some have reasonably well-developed back stories, while others remain disappointing caricature Geordie stereotypes.

Partly inspired by Sting’s album The Soul Cages, the music is mostly original to the work. It is ballad heavy, and given the nature of the subject matter this isn’t unexpected, but many are somewhat reminiscent of each other. The melodies are unmistakably Sting. There are a few stand-outs though, the title song in particular is majestic. Where the music soars is in the choral singing, the impassioned voices which raise to fill the auditorium are undeniably beautiful. It is here that the work becomes truly stirring. The performances are universally sound throughout. Joe McGann and Penelope Woodman, playing yard foreman Jackie and his wife Peggy, are particularly worthy of note.

The set from 59 Productions is an absolute winner, the lighting by Matt Daw and the projection design is sumptuous, it’s a joy for the eyes throughout.

In Glasgow, The Last Ship is playing to a crowd who very much understand the history of the shipyards and the scars that the Conservative government rendered are still in evidence. The mentions of the Parkland students, the Irish abortion vote and the NHS are welcomed with rousing cheers. This is a work that will resonate with many, however, some judicious editing would have made for an even more powerful message hitting home.

Runs until 23 June 2018 | Image: Contributed

THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR AND PUBLISHED BY THE REVIEWS HUB

REVIEW: The Pie-Eyed Piper of Hamilton – Oran Mor Summer Pantomime, Glasgow

Proving that pantomime is for all year not just for Christmas, Oran Mor’s latest summer offering is The Pie-Eyed Piper of Hamilton, a familiar tale re-worked for our post-referendum, parliament invading SNP times.

City State is overrun with rats and nothing nor no one can get rid of them, so the straw haired Mayor from the south is forced against all his instincts, to call on the services of a shell-suit wearing permanent inebriate with magical powers from north of the border.

pie eyed piper

 

Cue a clash of cultures and political satire a plenty. There’s double-damery too from Paul James Corrigan as the Piper’s tattoo adorned mammy and the skin-tight lycra clad Mayor’s daughter, and cross dressing from Annie Grace and Kirstin McLean as the Piper and Cyril the Mayor’s right hand man.

As always the cast are on top form but the politicking and the too-frequent and unfunny use of the f-word render this less successful than previous outings, there’s still fun throughout – just don’t take the tinies to see it.