Titanic the Musical (written by Maury Yeston) is the well known true story of the unsinkable ship Titanic, that sailed its one and only voyage in 1912. After hitting an Iceberg, the unthinkable happened and the unsinkable ship sank. With lifeboats on board for less than half the passengers, ultimately many people died.
The musical version of Titanic does not feature Jack and Rose from the film, there is no one being drawn like a French girl and there is no Celine Dion, but with such a beautiful story, told through brilliant acting and songs, you soon realise that there is a lot more to Titanic than that.
The Southwark Playhouse looks beautiful in its new home in Elephant and Castle. The small space is used well and despite the lack of a real boat, Iceberg and any water, the show feels no less real because of the way it is portrayed. As the Iceburg is about to hit the boat, the (almost Jaws like) music gets faster and faster until we hear a crash and a blackout. In act 2, the look on the men’s faces when their wives and children are lowered into the boats, give a grief stricken look that you would expect to see when you know you are about to die. And when the captain removes his hat and places it down, the music stops, giving the image that he has just been engulfed by water. A beautifully directed piece.
There is a touching display by the elderly couple, Mr and Mrs Straus (played by Dudley Rogers and Judith Street), when the man is trying to convince his wife to get into a lifeboat and says “after 40 years of marriage why will you not listen to me”, to which she replies “after 40 years of marriage, how can I leave you”, to which I welled up with tears. Other standout performances came from James Hume (who played Pitman Etched), the adorable character faced Jonathan David Dudley (as Bellboy) and the stunningly beautiful Grace Eccle (as Kate Murphy).
The music is beautifully brought to life by the wonderful Musical Director Mark Aspinal, whose career appears to be going from strength to strength.
The beautiful thing about this production at Southwark Playhouse was that at the end of the show, the names of everyone who died on that ship are projected onto the floor, which leaves you not wanting to leave the theatre until the last name has scrolled out of sight. Perhaps the names could have been projected onto the wall as the show ended to give greater prominence to the importance of this point.
There may be no real boat in Titanic the Musical but your heart will still sink if you go to see it. Just remember to bring a life jacket (and some tissues).
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Annabel Vere