ICEBERG RIGHT AHEAD!
by Chris Burgess.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse North Road Highgate Village N6 4BD To 22 April 2012.
Tues – Sat 7.30 Mat Sat 4pm & 18 April 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0208 340 3488.
Review:William Russell 27 March.
A Night to Remember?
Well, perhaps. Amid the plethora of works celebrating the demise of the Titanic a hundred years ago this odd play by Chris Burgess is certainly out of the ordinary. He has focused on a handful of real people involved in the disaster, with differing results.
The first act is on board the ship, with the characters assembled – the two lookout men, a Canadian cad and his snobbish mum, a venal stewardess, the cad’s mistress who is being brought along in secret, the quartermaster, the hapless proprietor J Bruce Ismay and the appalling vulgarian millionairess Molly Brown.
Sadly, Burgess lacks Julian Fellowes’ ear for the way people in 1913 might speak, let alone his grasp of the social divisions that existed then – things at times veer dangerously close to Carry On Titanic. The scenes involving the cad, his mama and Molly are quite funny, but much too close to farce for comfort, and the mistress being snogged by a seaman on the First Class boat deck just beggars belief.
However, after the interval, when the survivors take the lifeboats, things come together nicely and by the time we get to the enquiry into the disaster it is very moving indeed.
Things are helped by some fine performances. Matthew Walker and Steven George as Lee and Fleet, the hapless binocularless lookouts who spotted the iceberg too late – Lee randy and unscrupulous, Fleet as thick as two planks – are terrific, and Rosalind Blessed does a dazzling turn as Molly Brown, although one does rather wish she had gone down with the ship she is such a pain in the neck.
But all the cast are good, and director John Plews has worked wonders with limited resources. At the end the characters reveal what happened afterwards in real life and the result is a voyage well worth taking.
Frederick Fleet: Matthew Walker.
Reginald Lee: Steven George.
Violet Jessop: Amy Joyce Hastings.
Robert Hichens: Liam Mulvey.
Helene Baxter: Katharine Gwen.
Quigg Baxter: Jamie Partridge.
J Bruce Ismay: Julien Hall.
Bertha Mayne: Nathalie Pownall.
Molly Brown: Rosalind Blessed.
Ettie Dean: Katharine Gwen.
Commissioner: Jamie Partridge.
Director: John Plews.
Designer: James Lewis.
Lighting: Catherine Webb.
Media design: Rachael Vaughan.
Costume: Suzi Lombardelli.
Dialect coach: Liz Flint.
Assistant director: Zoe Ford.