First casting for The Last Ship announced
Northern Stage has announced the first casting for Sting’s musical The Last Ship which will run in Newcastle from 12 March to 7 April before setting out on an eleven-venue tour.
The Last Ship, which was initially inspired by Sting’s 1991 album The Soul Cages and his own childhood experiences in Wallsend, 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.
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 will play Jackie White. He played Charlie Burrows in the comedy series The Upper Hand, and his 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), Oliver! (London Palladium), Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (UK tour, 2008), Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls (ATG UK tour, 2006).
Charlie Hardwick (who, appropriately, was born in Wallsend) plays Peggy White. She 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).
Richard Fleeshman (Gideon Fletcher) played the role of Craig Harris in Coronation Street for four years, from age 12. A singer-songwriter, Richard’s stage roles include Sam Wheat in Ghost the Musical, a part he originated and played in the West End and on Broadway, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (UK tour) and Bobby Strong in Urinetown (original West End production).
Frances McNamee (Meg Dawson) 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).
Jimmy Nail, who was to have taken the role of Jackie White but who is no longer performing in the production, said, “I was very much looking forward to appearing in Sting’s The Last Ship, particularly here in my home city. Sadly that’s not to be. I would like to thank the production in allowing FACT, the charity of which I’m a patron, to benefit from the planned gala charity event. To anyone who has purchased a ticket, please, go see the show and give this vessel the launch it so deserves. You’ll hear some of the finest musical works ever composed for the stage.”
Producer Karl Sydow said, “after protracted negotiations carried out in good faith, we regret to announce the production's offer of employment to Jimmy Nail has been withdrawn. All at The Last Ship thank him for his generosity and enormous contribution during what has been an eight-year journey.”
“I am delighted to be welcoming Joe McGann, Charlie Hardwick, Richard Fleeshman, Frances McNamee and the rest of the company to Northern Stage for The Last Ship,” said Lorne Campbell, Northern Stage’s Artistic Director.
"Alongside some wonderful old friends of the company, we welcome some remarkable new performers from across the UK. We are all hugely excited to move into rehearsal and to bring this incredible score and epic story to audiences across the UK and Ireland.”