The Sea City Museum is currently displaying a fantastically informative and interactive exhibition detailing the story of history’s most infamous ship and the people who lived and died aboard it. As you enter the exhibition you are greeted by a wall of people, these are the 715 staff who worked aboard the ship. Three-quarters of these staff were from Southampton and only 175 would survive. As you continue through you are shown photos and real artefacts of the passengers from the ship; an interactive simulation from the Bridge and a chance to try your hand at stoking. A replica second class cabin has been set up allowing you to experience what it might have been like aboard the ship.
Then the exhibition tells the story of the disaster; in a dark room film voiced by actual survivors of the tragedy. Eva Hart tells of how she checked every life raft as it arrived for her father, whose body, if found, was never identified. She was only 7 at the time. Hearing the story of the tragedy in the words of a survivor introduced an incredibly real element to the exhibition. Previously they had been faces and photographs, far off and distant and now they are talking, as if to you directly. As you continue through the exhibition a large room tells the story of the inquiry with footage featuring the faces of those responsible. The issue of the lack of life rafts and the inadequacy of their filling is raised; later in the exhibit, you will see how the tragedy of the Titanic has helped to save countless lives in the future with the introduction of immersion suits and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The most poignant part of the exhibit for me was a map on the floor of one of the rooms, of Southampton, with a red dot over the address of every crew member who lost their life on the ship – there was one over my house.
After thoroughly exploring the exhibit, the musical was launched in a small event on the steps of the museum. The musical was originally performed in large-scale Broadway productions with over 60 actors and elaborate scenes. When the current team came on board they scaled the production down for a 6-week run at the Southwark Playhouse, it then went to the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto before returning to the UK for a 12-week run at the Charing Cross Theatre last year.
Selling fast, the Peter Stone (Woman of the Year and 1776) and Maury Yeston (Nine, Grand Hotel, Phantom of Opera) musical will be performed at the Mayflower in a run from the 12th to the 21st of April 2018; with a special performance on Saturday 14th, exactly 106 years since the Titanic sank. This performance will begin at 11:40, which is the time that the Titanic first hit problems and the show’s 2 hours 40-minute running time will cover the time it took for the unsinkable Titanic to finally sink. The run at the Mayflower kicks off the start of a tour of UK and Ireland that will visit some of the best theatres in the country, including those in Belfast, Plymouth, Dublin, Manchester and the well-known seaport of Birmingham.
With over 4000 tickets already sold for the Mayflower theatre run, the show is already incredibly popular and it is easy to see why. Headed by an incredibly passionate team of director Thom Southerland (Me and Juliet, Parade) and producers: Danielle Tarento, Steven M Levy, Sean Sweeney and Vaughan Williams (and Michael Ockwell, Chief Executive of Mayflower Theatre); Titanic the Musical focuses on telling the real stories on real people aboard the ship. Every character you see on stage was aboard the real Titanic and this knowledge is incredibly sobering. In the words of the synopsis – “Unaware of the fate that awaits them, the Third Class immigrants dream of a better life in America, the newly-enfranchised Second Class dream of achieving the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the millionaire Barons of the First Class dream of their mastery lasting forever.”
Scaling down from a much larger production with a much larger cast can be difficult, however talking to Southerland he explained a couple of key directive decisions that he had made that would not only make this easier but also significantly add to the story. The first of which was to scale down the orchestra to match that which would have played aboard the ship but also by having multiple characters being played by each actor, he signals the discrepancies in the class system that existed at the time. In the end, your class made little impact on the experience you went through, in history the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic is often thought to be the start of the end of the class system.
Overall Titanic the Musical promises to be a fantastic show which is both entertaining and poignant – neither a dirge nor missing the tragedy of the event. A huge amount of thought has gone into all elements of the production, with an incredibly dedicated team and cast. I for one can’t wait to see it in April and I would highly recommend it to any reader – tickets are on sale now.
Titanic the Musical will be running in the Mayflower Theatre from April 12th to 21st 2018. Tickets are on sale now.