Ghosts of the Titanic – Park Theatre, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Ron Hutchinson

Director: Eoin O’Callaghan

In the same way as the band continued to play as the Titanic sank, the actors in this show, set six months after the tragic voyage, gamely carry on even as the story crumbles around them. Like the ship,Ghosts of the Titanic is likely to disappear without a trace.

Genevieve Gaunt plays Emma who has come to New York with a theory. She proposes that there was no iceberg at all and that instead the Titanic fell apart because of structural failure. The ship was simply too long and too heavy. She’s grieving too; her fiancé was the pianist in the band that played hymns and waltzes as the lifeboats were filled.

She tells her story to Molloy, a New York hack, who is desperate for a story to sell to the newspapers. Emma’s conspiracy theory could mean that his name would be back on the front pages. He agrees to help in her pursuit of the truth. John Hopkins plays Malloy as a softly spoken wisecracking film noir private detective. Could English Emma be his femme fatale?

Very slowly, they begin their investigation and meet a shipbuilder from Harland and Wolff who worked on the hull of the Titanic, and they beg a newspaper editor to print the story. The action may come at a glacial pace but there is still some pleasure in watching the conspiracy enfold with mentions of inextinguishable fires and last minute cancellations. However, there are lots of red herrings too. A big noise is made of the fact that Titanic was meant to arrive at New York’s Pier 59 and that the job number for the Titanic was 401, but these numbers mean nothing.

Oddly, the second half dispenses with the intrigue of the first, and instead Ron Hutchinson’s play becomes a meditation on reality and the truth. In our own times of fake news this could be a pertinent examination, but Hutchinson brings nothing novel to the debate. The focus is on whether Emma is telling the truth, but it’s very hard to care.

The second half also veers into comedy when no-nonsense PI Spinks arrives on the scene. Sarah Ridgeway is very good in being menacing and funny at the same time, but this comic turn is at odds with Gaunt’s very serious performance and with Lizzie McInnerny’s strident newspaper editor. Clive Brill’s understanding shrink brings little drama to the proceedings, and any ideas about what happened in 1912 have been long forgotten.

Runs until 2 April 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

A red herring

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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