Singer Sting visited Northampton today (Friday) for a launch of his musical The Last Ship
He attended the launch at the Errol Flynn Filmhouse ahead of the show when it visits the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from Tuesday to Saturday April 24 to 28.
Sting was joined by cast members former Coronation Street star Richard Fleeshman, Emmerdale's Charlie Hardwick and The Upper Hand's Joe McGann for the show in which they performed five songs from the show as well as answered questions from the audience.
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.
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.
Sting said: "My earliest memory is of these gigantic industrial structures which blocked out the sun. I left the town and didn't want to work in the shipyard, I wanted to be a musician and was lucky enough to be successful.
"But at some point, I wanted to go home and pay a debt to the community that formed me and made me who I am."
And Sting was keen to maintain that the musical has a theme which will resonate with many communities.
He said: "It has a serious theme which is the closure of an industry but there is a love story, a lot of joy and laughter.
"But it's an emotional play. I've seen the play a lot in the audience and have been sat next to grown men crying.
"It's a common theme that I think will mean a lot in towns and cities regardless of whether you had a ship building industry or not as places had coal mines and factories. Those places gave people a sense of their identity, a sense of themselves. When you take that away from the community, it creates all kinds of issues."
This is the first time that the show has come to the UK having previously has a stint performing in Broadway and Chicago in 2014. But it has been fine tuned for the UK tour.
Sting said: "For me, a play is never finished. You are always working on it, almost all of the time. Even in rehearsals, I'm tinkering with it each day. I think the play is a lot more politicial tha it was on Broadway because I think it needs to be in England. We need to be much closer to the social and political history.
"It was quite a complex play on Broadway and I think this will be a lot more simple. I'm very happy with how it is going and we have got a wonderful cast including the actors, dancers and singers. It will be an emotional, entertaining evening."
And for Sting, it will be a case of his career coming full circle as he started his professional music career in the same theatre in Newcastle which will be the opening night of the tour."
He also confessed that it was the first time he had been in Northampton.
"I just walked around the theatre, it's an extraordinary building and one which I think people should be very proud of," Sting said. "It has got a gigantic stage which will suit this play really well because the dimensions of a ship yard are enormous. This is one of the few theatres that can accommodate the kind of dimensions that we need and I am very excited the show is coming here."
For a career which has been packed full of illustrious achievements and several hit songs, Sting says The Last Ship is among his proudest achievements.
Sting said: "This is my legacy if I am allowed to have one as it is the most personal subject."
Tickets for The Last Ship can be booked by calling the box office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk