City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Titanic and the Band Played On Review


By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 27 August 2009

Fringe 2009: Titanic and the Band Played On
2
Show details
Company: 
Acting Thru Theatre
Running time: 
45mins
Production: 
Katherine Lucy Bates (choreographer and director), Catherine Halder (scriptwriter), Jason Bozzard (lighting)
Performers: 
Camilla Alicia Bates, Katie Berry, Rebecca Severn, Rosie Terry, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Wise

Although listed under Dance in the Fringe programme, this is not a dance performance per se, but more of a dramatised play with film, music and short dance sequences. This devised theatrical piece based on Titanic survivors' stories is performed by a group of six young dance and performing arts students.

The energetic opening is certainly impressive as the ensemble, dressed in wet suit style costumes, appear to swim, dive, float and surf, while a film of rolling waves and the wreck of a ship on the ocean bed is screened behind. A reporter then sets the scene, introducing a present day documentary about Titanic, making the topical point that the last survivor died recently.

Flashback to April 10th 1912, with archive film footage of the Titanic setting sail for New York.  The dancers now become actors, each taking on various character roles with speedy costume changes, appearing as first class passengers and third class Irish emigrants.

Recorded narration gives facts and figures about fare prices and dinner menus but the information is duplicated, one voice echoing another which is very confusing and virtually impossible to hear. A boiler room scene depicts a few men shovelling coal against the rhythmic techno beat of a Tom Waits song, his deep gravely tones curiously superimposed with more recorded text about the men's wage of 10 shillings a week for hard labour.

The music soundtrack (Prokofiev, Offenbach and Irish jigs) continues scene by scene over accompanying dialogue. This might seem to offer a sense of theatricality, but for the audience trying to hear the words, it's just distracting.

The sinking of Titanic is evoked through a mix of dramatised sketches and the chilling recordings of wireless warnings about icebergs sent tragically in vain from other ships. Finally a film of the performers struggling to swim and keep afloat, to re-enact Titanic survivors, is effective:  "the assembled stood in disbelief on darkened decks until the icy sea consumed their last notes of hope."

The concept of a multimedia performance piece about the Titanic experience is imaginative, but unfortunately the main problem here is the fact that this company of young dancers lack the confidence and skill as actors. The slick, fast-paced choreography at the start is not followed through as it progresses into more of a play.  I am sure Titanic .. And The Band Played On could be recreated solely through dance, film and music; the ship's quartet playing live would be an exciting and emotive addition. With such a strong storyline, there is perhaps no need for spoken dialogue at all.

Times: 23-30 August, 5.10pm