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The Night Titanic Sank

by on 12 March 2020

An Intriguing Point of No Return

The Night Titanic Sank

by Jonathan Goodwin

Don’t Go Into the Cellar Theatre Company at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 12th March then on tour until 4th June

Review by Heather Moulson

As the theatre fell into darkness, as well as attending an account of the ultimate maritime disaster, we were also drawn into our own personal séance!

Focusing on personal testimonies by survivors was, changed forever by this public tragedy. The Night Titanic Sank brought the loss, in April 1912, of the RMS Titanic into vivid reality.

We unwittingly entered into a medium’s aura by Peter Llewellyn, who gave us an eerie and effective introduction. Written and starring Johnathan Goodwin, from the Victorian theatre company, Don’t Go Into The Cellar, the atmosphere was thick and intense, an intriguing point of no return.

titanic production pic

The first spirit, and eyewitness, Laurence Beesley, an English teacher and journalist, recalled sadly how the Irish cliffs were the last sight of land that many would see. He emphasised how huge the Titanic actually was, with its eleven levels. Beesley also recalled the irony of how Third Class seemed to have the most fun, dancing and singing and genuinely enjoying, the experience of the voyage. Like others, he felt the judder of the iceberg, and his guilt was palpable as he was instructed to jump into Lifeboat 13.

Charles Joughin, the ship’s head baker, a dipsomaniac, was then called up. He shared his insight of throwing deckchairs out to sea for people to cling onto. Through his drunken haze, the cries of help rang in his ears. His account of swimming round the bitterly cold sea until a lifeboat came, has become a thing of legend. Defying the odds of hypothermia, we got the impression that being drunk saved his life.

Military man, Archibald Gracie followed, blustery, gruff, angry, he elaborated bitterly how his friend, Clinch Smith, didn’t survive the brutal wave that carried them. Sadly, his remains were never found. Exhausted, Archibald was pulled onto Lifeboat 12.

After a very long first half of one hour and ten minutes, which I’m not sure worked, as the audience were flagging, the shorter second half transformed the theatre as we met another survivor tortured by accusations of cowardice and corruption.

Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, an eminent Scot, bore these scars and bitterly denied the allegations. Accused of getting into Lifeboat number 1, along with his wife and secretary, (Lady Gordon refused to go without him), and bribing the crew with cheques of five pounds not to return and rescue others, he became emotional in his denial, and the impact on the rest of their lives. He presented a valid and real case, and came over as a sympathetic character. Urging us not to believe the slander written about him, and the stigma of men getting into the lifeboats.

Titanic promoLlewellyn cast up the final and most haunted, the Captain who had steered that “Ship of Death”. With the grim task of retrieving the bodies, he reached the depths of his sadness when many had to be recommitted back to the sea, as they were so damaged. A very moving account.

Llewellyn presented a touching epilogue that there was no single fault, nor blame. What mattered most was that we heard from those who shared the horror. A mature and thoughtful production by a gifted and passionate actor.

This is a theatre company well worth watching.

Heather Moulson
March 2020

Photography courtesy of Don’t Go Into the Cellar

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