Opened on Broadway in 2014, Sting’s The Last Ship tells the story of the closure of the Swan Hunter shipyard in his hometown of Newcastle. Earlier this year, the musical set sail across the UK and Ireland for its first ever national tour and it has finally docked at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.
It’s refreshing to see that Sting, one the music industry’s most well-known figures, has used his fame to create a truly interesting debut show based on his own childhood memories rather than simply converting his back catalogue into yet another a forgettable jukebox musical. Buoyed by an inspiring story and an original folk-like score based on his 1991 concept album The Soul Cages, The Last Ship doesn’t shy away from making a political statement about the importance of protest and what Thatcherite Britain was like for working class people. The overarching message is ‘you are what you do’ and the characters are constantly reminding the audience of this sentiment.
Despite a slow start comprised of too many lengthy songs, The Last Ship is engaging to watch throughout. The industrial set, which has been designed by 59 Productions and is illuminated with both moving and still projected images, is simply stunning and male lead Richard Fleeshman turns in an impressive performance as Gideon Fletcher, a young man who has returned to the hometown he escaped years earlier to find the local community on the brink of collapse.
Considering how much the narrative of the show will resonate with British audiences, it’s surprising that The Last Ship is only now being performed on British soil. See it while you can.
The Last Ship, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, runs until Saturday 16 June 2018, 7.30pm (matinee performance at 2.30pm), £22 – £42, 0131 529 6000.
Words: Amy Anderson