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Sting unveils The Last Ship at Royal and Derngate

Sting came to Northampton to whet the town’s appetite for the visit of his musical The Last Ship.

He was joined by cast members at the Royal and Derngate theatre to give a sneak preview of some of the songs from the show as well as answering questions from the media.

The Last Ship tells the story of the end of the shipbuilding industry in Sting’s home town of Wallsend, Newcastle.


NQ asked him if the show is the Geordie Kinky Boots: “I think these things are kind of universal for cities that lose their identity from a factory closing or an industry closing or a coal mine closing. People have seen their identity linked to an industry and then it is taken from them, what do they do? I thought the theme of this play like Kinky Boots is a universal theme.

“Everyone recognises it, everyone’s father or grandfather or they themselves have worked in an indsutry that has been taken away. I take your point but this story has not been told, the story of my community and it needed to be.”


Sting was joined on stage by cast members Joe McGann, Charlie Hardwick and Richard Fleeshman and four songs from the show were performed ranging from lilting ballads to a foot stomping showpiece. He explained that writing songs for musical theatre was a new skill.

“I have always been a fan of narrative songwriting, telling a story within a three or four minute structure, this was a longer version of that, just a larger canvass with more colours to paint and of course the challenge of sustaining interest over a three or four hour period.

“Every song, every couplet, every line fights for its life because it has to drive on the narrative. You cant just write a song and everything stays where it is. Something has to have moved on within that two minutes or three minutes, so that’s a new discipline. It’s a very demanding discipline.

“I was brought up with the music of rogers and hammerstein, not that I ever saw a musical because we didn’t have a theatre near us but my mum had all those albums south pacific, oaklahoma, carousel, west side story, i played those records to death. You scratch me and I’ll start singing “I love you”. We steal from the best of course…”

The show debuted in New York and went to Broadway after producer Karl Sydow convinced Sting his 1991 album The Soul Cages was the basis for a piece of musical theatre.

Sting said: “This is the most exciting thing I’ve done in my entire life actually. It has been seven years. We have had some great successes, some failures but the journey has been so wonderful and it continues. The ship sails and I’m thrilled to be with this fantastic cast of actors, singers and dancers.”






Monday 12 March – Saturday 7 April
northernstage.co.uk | 0191 230 5151

Monday 9 – Saturday 14 April
everymanplayhouse.com | 0151 709 4776

Monday 16 – Saturday 21 April
atgtickets.com/Birmingham | 0844 871 7647

Tuesday 24 – Saturday 28 April
royalandderngate.co.uk | 01604 624 811

Monday 30 April – Saturday 5 May
leedsgrandtheatre.com | 0844 848 2700

Monday 7 – Saturday 12 May
nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk | 0115 941 9419

Monday 14 – Saturday 19 May
wmc.org.uk | 029 2063 6464

Monday 4 – Saturday 9 June
bordgaisenergytheatre.ie | +353 1 677 7999

Tuesday 12 – Saturday 16 June
edtheatres.com | 0131 529 6000

Monday 18 – Saturday 23 June
atgtickets.com/Glasgow | 0844 871 7647

Monday 25 – Saturday 30 June
yorktheatreroyal.co.uk | 01904 623 568

Tuesday 3 – Saturday 7 July
thelowry.com | 0843 208 6000

The Last Ship press statement follows:

The full cast and creative team has been announced for the UK premiere of The Last Shipthe acclaimed musical by the internationally renowned musician Sting – which is to premiere in the UK when it opens at Northern Stage in Newcastle on 12 March 2018.

Rehearsals for the production, which has a TONY-nominated original score and lyrics composed by Sting, begin this week. It will play a 4-week season in Newcastle before embarking on a major UK & Ireland Tour.

The Last Ship, which was initially inspired by Sting’s 1991 album The Soul Cages and his own childhood experiences, tells the story of a community amid the demise of the shipbuilding industry in Tyne and Wear, with the closure of the Swan Hunter shipyard.

This personal, political and passionate new musical from multiple Grammy Award winner Sting, is an epic account of a family, a community and a great act of defiance. The Last Ship features an original score with music and lyrics by Sting as well as a few of his best-loved songs; Island of Souls, All This Time and When We Dance.  It is the proud story of when the last ship sails.

The casting of Joe McGann (Jackie White), Charlie Hardwick (Peggy White), Richard Fleeshman (Gideon Fletcher) and Frances McNamee (Meg Dawson) was announced earlier this month.

 Completing the cast are Michael Blair (Yard Worker), Joe Caffrey (Billy Thompson), Matt Corner (Young Gideon & Yard Worker), Marvin Ford (Ferryman & Yard Worker), Orla Gormley (Cathleen & Yard Worker), Annie Grace (Mrs Dees), Sean Kearns (Freddy Newland & Old Joe), Katie Moore (Ellen Dawson), Charlie Richmond (Adrian Sanderson), Parisa Shahmir (Young Meg), Kevin Wathen (Davey Harrison) and Penelope Woodman (Baroness Tynedale).

The show is directed by Lorne Campbell, the artistic director of Northern Stage and has set design by the Tony Award-winning 59 Productions – team behind the video design for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

 The Last Ship has orchestrations by Rob Mathes musical direction by Richard John, costume design by Molly Einchcomb, movement direction by Lucy Hind, lighting design by Matt Daw and sound design by Seb Frost. Other members of the creative team are dramaturg Selma Dimitrijevic, associate director Jake Smith, casting director Jenkins McShane Casting and associate musical director Sam Sommerfeld.

Lorne Campbell said, “We have brought together a remarkable cast and team of creatives from across the UK with a core of incredible performers from the North East, many of whom are only a generation away from the shipyard workers of the Tyne and the Wear. This personal connection to the project brings an enormous passion and resonance to the company.”

When a sailor named Gideon Fletcher returns home after seventeen years at sea, tensions between past and future flare in both his family and his town. The local shipyard, around which the community has always revolved, is closing and no-one knows what will come next, only that a half-built ship towers over the terraces. With the engine fired and pistons in motion, picket lines are drawn as foreman Jackie White and his wife Peggy fight to hold their community together in the face of the gathering storm.

Joe McGann Spotlight - colour (M.A.D Photography 2016)

 Joe McGann, perhaps best known for his lead role as Charlie Burrows in the comedy series The Upper Hand, has had a wide career spanning theatre, television and film. Theatre credits include Elf (Plymouth Theatre Royal/ Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, Dominion Theatre, West End, and Lowry, Salford); The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (UK Tour); Calendar Girls (three UK tours), Olivier! (London Palladium), Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (UK Tour, 2008), Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls (ATG UK Tour, 2006).

Charlie Hardwick

Charlie Hardwick played Val Pollard from 2004 to 2015 and again in 2017 in the ITV soap opera Emmerdale. For this role, she won the 2006 British Soap Award for Best Comedy Performance. Stage credits include Hyem (Theatre 503/Northern Stage) and Double Lives (Live Theatre).

FLEESHMAN, Richard 1

Richard Fleeshman is a familiar face on our stage and screens having been acting since the age of 12 when he played the role of Craig Harris in Coronation Street for four years. A talented singer-songwriter, Richard’s stage roles include Sam Wheat in Ghost the Musical, a part he originated and played in the West End on Broadway, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (UK Tour) and Bobby Strong in Urinetown (original West End production).

Frances McNamee

Frances McNamee is currently appearing alongside Kelsey Grammer in Big Fish (The Other Palace). Other stage credits include The Mother (Tricycle), Love’s Labour’s Lost, Love’s Labour’s Won (RSC), Punishment Without Revenge (Arcola/Theatre Royal Bath/Belgrade Coventry), Pride and Prejudice (Regent’s Park), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal and Derngate), The Borrowers (Northern Stage), Epsom Downs (Salisbury Playhouse), The   Phoenix   of   Madrid, The Surprise of Love (Theatre Royal Bath) and Les Misérables 20th Anniversary Gala Performance (West End). Her film credits include Love in Fifteen Minutes.

 The Last Ship is produced by Northern Stage in association with Karl Sydow and Kathryn Schenker.

Northern Stage

Northern Stage, in Newcastle, makes ambitious, intelligent, enjoyable theatre. The company has a reputation for reviving classic plays in fresh adaptations and creating bold new work. It has been one of the UK’s most popular national touring companies for the last 20 years. Alongside its own work, Northern Stage presents the best regional, national and international theatre. Its extensive Creative Residencies programme supports local and national theatre-makers to develop their work at Northern Stage and a year-round programme of projects and events encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to take part in making theatreNorthern Stage also hosts a venue at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, presenting some of the most interesting theatre from across the north of England. northernstage.co.uk 

7223 Sting brings The Last Ship home to Newcastle - photo credit Mark Savage for Northern Stage


Sting was born Gordon Matthew Sumner on 2 October, 1951 in Wallsend, North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, England, the eldest of four children of Audrey (Cowell), a hairdresser, and Ernest Matthew Sumner, an engineer and milkman.

He grew up in the turmoil of the ship-building industry and wanted to become a musician very early having developed a love for the bass guitar. He played in jazz/rock bands such as “The Last Exit” and other various outfits, including a Dixieland jazz group, and in 1977, he formed the rock trio, The Police with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers.

In 1984, he went on to record solo albums, and has evolved in to one of the most prolific songwriters and musicians in the world. His latest album, 57th & 9th, was released in November, 2016 followed by the critically-acclaimed 57th & 9th World Tour which recently concluded having performed 115 concerts throughout North America, Asia, Latin America & Europe. Hailed “the show of a lifetime” (The Vancouver Globe & Mail), Sting: Live at The Olympia Paris will be released November 10 on DVD and captures the musician’s guitar-driven rock tour as it hit the French capital at the iconic venue in April, 2017.

Throughout his illustrious career, Sting has sold close to 100 million albums from his combined work with The Police and as a solo artist.  He has also delved into acting, having appeared in over 15 films such as Quadrophenia (1979) and Bring on the Night (1984) and has published a memoir entitled Broken Music in 2003, which spent 13 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list. He has received honorary Doctorate of Music degrees from Northumbria University in October 1992, Berklee College of Music in May 1994 and from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 2006.

The Last Ship Newcastle. Sting and director Lorne Campbell. Photo Mark Savage

Lorne Campbell

Lorne is Northern Stage’s Artistic Director. Before moving to Newcastle upon Tyne he was Co-Artistic Director at theatre company Greyscale and a freelance director and theatre-maker.  He was also the course leader of the BA Directing programme at Drama Centre, Central St Martins.

He is a graduate of the Channel 4 Young Theatre Director’s Scheme and a former Associate Director at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.  During his time at the Traverse he directed a range of work including Distracted by Morna Pearson (Winner of the Meyer Whitworth Award) and Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Alan Wilkins which was named Best New Play Critics’ Awards Theatre Scotland in 2007.

Lorne has also worked extensively in mainland Europe and Britain and since 2008, he has been a freelance director with works at The Gate, London, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Birmingham Rep and Oran Mor. He founded his company Greyscale in 2009 which has produced touring work ever since including What Would Judas Do? by Stewart Lee, What The Animals Say by David Ireland and A Prayer by Selma Dimitrijevic.

For Northern Stage Lorne has directed The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project at the company’s Edinburgh venue (winner of the 2013 Sprit of the Fringe Award) He has also directed two Christmas productions for children aged 7+ Dark Woods, Deep Snow: A Grimm Tale for Christmas and Get Santa, Cyrano de Bergerac in co-production with Northampton’s Royal & Derngate (2015), Get Carter (incl UK tour) in 2016, Dr Frankenstein (including UK tour) in 2017.

59 Productions

59 Productions is the Tony Award-winning company of artists behind the video design of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, globe-trotting smash hit, War Horse, the design and creative direction of the record- breaking David Bowie Is exhibition and the decor concept design for The Met Ball, hosted by Anna Wintour. Led by directors Leo Warner, Mark Grimmer, Lysander Ashton and Richard Slaney, with the company’s New York branch led by Ben Pearcy, 59 are world-leading specialists in design for stage and live events.

Building on a decade of experience making theatrical work for some of the world’s greatest venues – including the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, The Metropolitan Opera and the Salzburg Festival – the Company has more recently become renowned for creating spectacular public artworks, projection-mapping some of the world’s most iconic buildings, including the Sydney Opera House, Edinburgh Castle and the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

As of 2017, the company has also begun producing its own theatrical work, with its first full scale production, Paul Auster’s City of Glass playing at Home, Manchester and the Lyric, Hammersmith.

Karl Sydow

Karl Sydow has produced Dirty Dancing, the Classic Story Live on Stage across the UK for the past 11 years.

Other credits in the UK include Sinatra: The Man and His Music directed by David Gilmore, Backbeat directed by David Leveaux; Dish of Tea With Dr Johnson directed by Max Stafford-Clark; Tritych by Edna O’Brien; Memory directed by Terry Hands; The Line directed by Matthew Lloyd and Jenůfa directed by Irina Brown, both written by Timberlake Wertenbaker (Arcola); Ring Round the Moon directed by Sean Mathias (Playhouse); Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Piccadilly, Aldwych, UK tour, Germany, France, Australia and Italy); the spectacular multimedia production Sinatra at the London Palladium directed by David Leveaux with choreography by Stephen Mear; And Then There Were None with Tara Fitzgerald (Gielgud); the London and Sydney production of Dance of Death with Sir Ian McKellen, Frances de la Tour and Owen Teale; Bea Arthur (Savoy); Auntie and Me with Alan Davies and Margaret Tyzack (Wyndham’s); Michael Moore, Live! (Roundhouse); the West End Premiere of Noël Coward’s Semi-Monde; Kevin Elyot’s Mouth to Mouth with Lindsay Duncan and Michael Maloney (Albery); David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow with Mark Strong, Patrick Marber and Kimberly Williams; Drummers by Simon Bennet and Some Explicit Polaroids by Mark Ravenhill – winner of the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Newcomer – both directed by Max Stafford- Clark for Out of Joint; Macbeth with Rufus Sewell (Queen’s); A Swell Party – A Celebration of Cole Porter (Vaudeville); Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good (Olivier Award for Best Play); Hysteria (Olivier Award for Best Comedy) and an adaptation of Sue Townsend’s novel The Queen and I which was Out of Joint’s inaugural production.

In North America he has produced Backbeat (Royal Alexandra, Toronto and Ahmanson, Los Angeles) directed by David Leveaux with international tours including The Last Confession with David Suchet; the centennial production of Under Milk Wood; and the Out of Joint revival of Our Country’s Good.

In February 2018, Karl will produce Alan Ayckbourn’s The Divide with The Old Vic and Edinburgh International Festival. And then in April, David Hare’s The Moderate Soprano at the Duke of York’s.

Kathryn Schenker (Producer)

Kathryn Schenker was Sting’s longtime manager and has more than 30 years’ experience in the entertainment business. She has produced three Emmy Award-winning musical specials and numerous music documentaries, including the BBC One program, Sting: When The Last Ship Sails.  She was the lead producer of the Broadway production of The Last Ship.

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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