BWW Review: THE LAST SHIP STARRING STING at Golden Gate Theatre
The Last Ship is the story of a proud shipbuilding company town being taken over by privatization, greed and heartless capitalism, and of the women and men whose lives are about to be destroyed by the closure of the shipyard. The sickness, death and wholesale lack of humanity that Maggie Thatcher's conservative policies wrought are readily apparent in Lorne Campbell's new book which is a retooling of the Broadway original by John Logan and Brian Yorkey. Sting's music and lyrics nestle softly and poignantly into the story of workers cast aside without a thought, of hopes dashed while heads are still held high and of love, camaraderie and resilience.
Several stories are told at the same time but they're woven together so loosely that you tend to lose the thread. (The thick Geordie dialect doesn't help.) There's Gideon Fletcher (the wonderful Oliver Savile) who left the town and his teenage love, Meg Dawson (Frances McNamee shines as the adult Meg) 17 years prior. Unbeknownst to him Meg was pregnant when he ran out on her and he meets his teenage daughter, Ellen (Sophie Reid is the angst-ridden teen) just at the moment when the community of shipbuilders is in crisis. Ellen has her own story, the dream to play music and escape the confines of a dying town. These two stories have very little to do with the main story which is that of a community on the edge of extinction.
Enter Sting as the sickly but noble shipyard foreman, Jackie White with has calm and supportive wife, Peggy (played brilliantly by Jackie Morrison). Jackie and Peggy and the townsfolk (representing thousands) are desperate to strike a deal with the powers that be, or possibly just to strike, in order to keep their jobs. Anger and angst are the order of the day, for the main story is that of a community who knows no other way of life. (Peggy will end up leading the community forward in a different way.)
Set Design by 59 Productions pulls out every trick in their technical book to bring us the feel of a town living in the shadow of giant steel ships, girders and metal walkways. Dark clouds continually roll by adding to the darkness threatening to envelop them all.
In this time of angst here on this side of the pond, whole communities that rely on industry jobs (auto workers in Detroit, coal workers in West Virginia) are facing the same demise. Change will come, but does it always have to happen on the backs of the working class?
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy