Sting: I feel emotional - and excited - by Leith

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IT may be many decades since a ship was last launched from the slipway of Henry Robb’s Shipyard, but at Leith Dockers’ Club today, memories were rekindled as 80’s pop icon Sting, real name Gordon Sumner, launched his new musical, which sails into the Festival Theatre in 2018.

The Police frontman was in town to promote The Last Ship, a musical inspired initially by his 1991 album The Soul Cages and his childhood experiences.

Sting promotes his musical The Last Ship at Leith Dockers Club, Edinburgh.  Picture: Greg Macvean

Sting promotes his musical The Last Ship at Leith Dockers Club, Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean

Taking to the stage of The Dockers’ to sing a selection of songs from the show, he later revealed that he felt at home in the port.

He says, “It does feel like being at home here. I saw a little bit of the docks as we came in and when I caught sight of the ships I got emotional.

“There’s something about a ship that excites me. There’s a symbolism that is very powerful... as kid looking growing up looking at the end of my street and seeing this massive cathedral of steel and then to see it launched. The noise. That was powerful.”

The Last Ship charts the lives of the people of Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, as the shipbuilding industry on which generations have relied goes into decline with the closure of the town’s Swan Hunter shipyard.

It tells the story of Gideon Fletcher; when he returns home after 17 years at sea, tensions between past and future flare in both his family and his town.

With a half-built ship towering over the terraces, picket lines are drawn as foreman Jackie, played by Nail, and his wife Peggy fight to hold their community together in the face of the gathering storm.

Directed by Edinburgh-born Lorne Campbell, the production will star Jimmy Nail, best remembered as Oz in the hit television show Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, and for his title role in Spender.

Nail, who came out of retirement to star in The Last Ship, will reprise the role he played on Broadway.

Now 66, Sting, who also played the role in New York, can’t wait to see the reaction the piece gets from local audiences and he reveals there may even be a very special guest in the audience - Steven Spielberg.

“I think it will resonate well with the people of Edinburgh, and I’m just dying to see how it goes down here - I’ll be here on the first night.”

Announcing that he has invited Spielberg to see the show during the tour he adds, “He was very interested and got very emotional over the whole idea of it too. He may even see it in Edinburgh.”

The Last Ship comes to Edinburgh on 12 June 2018, for a week long run.

The production, which boasts a Tony-nominated original score and lyrics by Sting has been described as a ‘personal, political and passionate new musical’ and as a ‘an epic account of a family, a community and a great act of defiance. As well as original music and lyrics, The Last Ship also features some of Sting’s best-loved songs including Island of Souls, All This Time and When We Dance.

The Last Ship, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 12-16 June 2018, £22-£42, 0131-529 6000

There will be a full interview with Sting in Friday’s Edinburgh Evening News.