Gordon Sumner aka Sting  rocked up in Manchester this week performing four songs from his first musical The Last Ship which premieres in the UK when it opens at Northern Stage in Newcastle on 12 March 2018 before finishing at the Lowry in Salford in July.

Born and raised in Wallsend on Tyneside in the shadow of a shipyard where some of the biggest in the world were built, he would watch the shipbuilders walk to work, saw some of the largest ships launched from the end of his road, his father and grandfather both shipbuilders, he wanted to break that tradition, he told the assembled audience.

The shipyard was a dark and dangerous place for the young Sting, he had dreams of being a songwriter,an artist, winning a scholarship to the local Grammar School, he studied Latin while his father wanted him to get a technical education. 

Sting fulfilled his dreams, playing in one of the most successful bands of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, splitting up the band at the height of its fame and going onto a solo career which is still going on four decades later.

The shipyards took another direction, “Thatchernomics” would by the early 1980’s leave those worker that he had seen going to the shipyards were on the scrap heap.

The musical that he has written in their honour is an emotional debt , he abandoned his town but owes it the honour of telling a story that has never been told, questioning what happens when you take work away from a community that has been built around it

The musical he says is a combination of folk music and traditional theatre, the path of musicians writing musicals is littered with corpses, he admits adding that writing a musical from scratch was one of the hardest things that he has ever done.

Still not sure he presented it at an early stage to former shipbuilders in Newcastle to see an early version of the play, “aye” they said, “keep working on it lad”, without their approval he wouldn’t have continued, he tells the audience.

The musical tells the story of Gideon Fletcher who 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 Wallsend has always revolved, is closing and no-one knows what will come next, only that a half-built ship towers over the terraces.

Tuesday 3 – Saturday 7 July


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