Sidmouth Youth Theatre gives Titanic performance

Tear-jerking portrayal of Titanic’s fateful story marks the disaster’s centenary

THE sinking of the Titanic, 100 years ago this April, was, we are told, “a mistake of arrogance”.

More than 1,500 souls were lost during that tragic night after the unsinkable ship, the largest man had made at that time, hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

Sidmouth Youth Theatre’s production – Titanic The Unsinkable Dream – on at Sidmouth Manor Pavilion Theatre until tomorrow (Saturday) was a flawless triumph, bringing home to the full-house audiences the stories of tragedy, despair, sacrifice and selfishness among its passengers.

There are 71 stars in the show, for each cast member produced a moving tribute to those who died in the icy seas, and a damming account of the series of human errors and arrogance that led to the disaster and its place in our history books, made all the more real by the recent sinking of the cruise liner Costa Concordia.

The Titanic was the White Star Line’s pride and joy and all levels of society were represented among its passengers, from the super rich to those fleeing poverty in Ireland by seeking a new life in America.

Just as the iceberg sent a death shudder through its hull, so news of the sinking of this unsinkable ship sent a shiver across the globe.

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Director/producer Angela Davies tells audiences through the programme that SYT had a real challenge to recreate the tragedy and enormity of this disaster.

“To portray the real people who were involved and to speak the words they spoke has been an emotional journey in this uniquely powerful musical docu-theatre production,” she writes.

Many tears were shed during rehearsals as the realisation of what had happened hit home to the cast.

Many tears fell in the auditorium too, because this young cast triumphed in their dramatic interpretation, particularly at one poignant moment as those left on board after the evacuation drowned under sea-blue lighting, leaving behind a row of boots and shoes.

It was these pairs of shoes that alerted the scientific team who found the Titanic wreck in 1985 using a deep sea submarine, to the fact they had found the last resting place of some passengers.

John Thompson’s minimal set, of a cut-out Titantic outline within a collage of newspaper cuttings and staging made to look like the bridge of the ship, the cast filled the stage for a wide range of songs, interspersed by vignettes of acting to tell us the facts behind the building, launching, sailing and sinking of the ship on its maiden voyage.

No lines of faces here as the ensemble was staged in small groups, making for interesting shapes and areas on which to focus during the action. A professional soundtrack reflected the era and drama superbly.

We heard about the amount of food and drink taken on board, from 25,000 pounds of poultry and 40,000 fresh eggs to 15,000 bottles of ale and 8,000 cigars.

Max Faulkner was reporter narrator, with Chris Willows as Captain Smith; complete with grey beard and Nick Parish as Thomas Andrews, the ship’s builder.

The tragic honeymoon couple, Mary and Daniel Mervin were touchingly portrayed by Molly Adkin and Matthew Colson, who movingly sang their duet, Let it Be Forever.

Katie Lowe as the Irish narrator and Leonie Motler as the maid gave good performances and Zoe Crockett and Molly Morton’s singing in First Class Waltz was excellent.

Sam Neal in grey with top hat and cane was narrator for White Star and young Callum Burns as a bellboy also warrants a mention. So does the haunting voices of Jo Burgess and Lyris Richards who performed the requiem after the ship’s sinking.

Marc Colson on lighting, helped by Nick Parish and Tom Palmer, did an excellent job, from the dramatic front facing spotlights on the group as the ship begins to sink, to the blue waves as it engulfs its victims, most of who were among the third class passengers, kept below decks until the first and second class passengers were safely in the pitifully few lifeboats.

The show was dedicated to Douglas Hilliar of Budleigh Salterton, grandparent of Guy Hilliar, who played the arrogant Bruce Ismay, White Star’s chairman, who survived the sinking.