GT Stage

Review: Titanic (The Musical)

The musical take on the infamously doomed ship certainly had us feeling buoyant...

Forget the new 3D version of the James Cameron film – for a truly immersive experience of that fateful maiden voyage of the world’s most famous ship, get yourself down to this musical take on the disaster at London’s Southwark Playhouse. It’s a relatively small performance space, but one of the city’s larger fringe venues – intimate without feeling cramped. And when brimming with a full-scale musical production, involving a cast of 20 as well as a six-piece band, the audience has a very real sense of being right in the thick of the action. A fervid immediacy emphasises how live theatre will always have the edge when it comes to immersion. And, of course, in this case, submersion.

A stark and simple split-level set forms a perfect canvas on which to tell the tale, and when push comes to shove, and the deck is required to upend itself, unpretentious theatrical trickery is used to great effect and our stomachs lurch with the ship.

Titanic is populated with characters that we’re already familiar with, such as Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line – played here with credible avarice by Simon Green – as well as original creations, though all with real names of those who voyaged on the original ship. There are standout performances from James Hume as first-class steward Etches, who imbues what could easily be a role of insouciance with great warmth, and from Victoria Serra as third class passenger Kate McGowan, whose hearty and able delivery marks her out as one to watch.

This reviewer’s eye was also caught by Jonathan David Dudley, who is not only impossibly adorable as the Bellboy, but also takes centre stage as band-leader Hartley. He proves that he’s more than just a pretty face, belting out notes and tripping the light fantastic with effortless style. Dudley also takes part in a scene set in the engine room, which sees several of the ensemble lads, drenched with sweat and oil, demonstrating life below decks with some arresting expressive dance…

With superb songs, lively choreography, and a suitably compassionate approach to the real-life tragedy, this is a show not to be missed. The standing ovation given at the end of the performance is clear evidence that this Titanic will not be so easily sunk.

GT gives this a: 4/5

Titanic runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 31st August. More details at: Southwark Playhouse.

Words: Richard Unwin

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