Not only does 2017 mark 120 years of Edinburgh’s Southern Light Opera Company but no doubt the year will also be remembered as one of the most terrific stage productions this company has produced so far! With a cast of titanic proportions and a main cast whose characters are based on some of the Titanic’s real crew and passengers, this epic show makes for a riveting spectacle, effortlessly combining entertainment with utter tragedy.

Despite a slight hiccup at the start when a crackling backdrop projection somewhat ‘compromised’ the entrance of RMS Titanic’s Chief Designer Thomas Andrews (Keith Gilmore) who, utterly professional and unfazed, continued with the marvelous number ‘In Every Age’ – it was clear from the outset that this is going to be a production which will do the memory of the Titanic as well as its survivors and of course its tragic victims proud. At first we are introduced to some of the construction prints and layouts of the ship’s design before a seemingly never-ending flood of passengers boards the Titanic – announced by Chief Steward Henry Etches (Gary Gray): the 3rd Class passengers including the three Irish Kates’ (Nicole Graham, Holly Carter and Tanya Williamson respectively), the 2nd Class passengers and finally the aristocratic 1st Class passengers dressed in gorgeous-to-look-at Edwardian costumes with musical numbers such as ‘Godspeed Titanic’ and ‘What A Remarkable Age This Is’ while First Officer Murdoch (Scott Walker) ponders over ‘To Be A Captain’.

The first part depicts the hopes and dreams of some of the travellers such as bubbly 2nd Class passenger Alice Bean (Judith Walker) who, much to the chagrin of husband Edgar (Stephen Boyd) likes nothing more than to rub shoulders with the filthy rich upper crustlers. Changes in scenes not only demonstrate the all too obvious class divide but the stark contrast of the ship’s splendour such as the the saloon deck compared to the bowels of the lower deck (into which the 3rd class passengers are crammed). We also witness some early bickering going on about speed over safety and why the number of passengers on the apparently unsinkable ship outweigh the number of lifeboats by far! The first act ends with the doomed ocean liner ramming against the massive iceberg though I won’t reveal here how it’s done here – rest assured it’s pretty dramatic!

The second act demands an obvious shift in tone and here the action focuses on debates as to why the third class citizens shouldn’t be allowed on the upper deck, let alone allowed into the limited numbers of lifeboats, before everyone else. Fierce arguments between White Line Star Manager/Owner J Bruce Ismay (Charles Leeson-Payne), Captain E. J. Smith (David McBain) and ship designer Andrews hark back to the ‘speed-before-safety’ issue in the dramatic exchange ‘The Blame’. The drama heightens as panic-stricken passengers make their way to the lifeboats, with one male passenger handing a note to posh Charlotte Cardoza (Lorna Frier) to pass on to a certain someone in the event that he should not survive. Devoted wife Ida Straus (Dorothy Johnstone) and husband Isidor (David Mitchinson) are inseparable and as Ida refuses to leave his side they decide to die together while singing ‘Still’. Meanwhile, American millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim (Ross Bain) and his valet dress to the nines as they wish to gown down in style. After the sinking some of the survivors, huddled together and kept warm with blankets from the ship Carpathia, sing the heartfelt ‘The Foundering’ will the principal cast re-unite on stage for the epilogue numbers ‘In Every Age/Godspeed’. Particularly harrowing is the juxtaposing of the names of all those who lost their lives.

An inspired production with a great cast who gave it their all. Praise must also go to director A. Johnston, musical director D. McFarlane and choreographer Louise Williamson.

TITANIC runs until Sat 25th of February at the King’s Theatre

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