Despite its sensitive subject matter, new play Ghosts of the Titanic at the Park Theatre is like a slow motion shipwreck
“I’m doing this for the paycheck”
There’s something touching about the fact that playwright Ron Hutchinson is dipping his toes into very personal waters with this play here, it is dedicated to the memory of his grandfather Jack Lytle, one of the shipfitters on the Titanic who later died of injuries received in the shipyard. So it gives me no pleasure to report that I spent most of Ghosts of the Titanic waiting for the iceberg to take us all.
Hutchinson looks to remind us that conspiracy theories are nothing new and sets his play some six months after the sinking of the Titanic. Emma Hinton’s fiancé was onboard as one of the ship’s musicians and she’s convinced that there was in fact no iceberg and that structural issues were at fault. And once she gets an unscrupulous journalist onboard, she goes hell for leather trying to expose those she considers responsible.
But the attempts to suggest conspiracy are tenuous in the extreme, a surfeit of red herrings trying the patience extraordinarily, the actual revelations barely registering when they do come, Eoin O’Callaghan’s direction strangely becalmed in the first act. After the interval, the complete shift in focus stretches tolerance even further, incorrectly assuming that we’re onside with Emma in her struggles to be heard.
It would be easier to dial into Hutchinson’s treatise on ‘what is the truth’ if he didn’t keep fatally undermining the tone of his writing with an ill-advised injection of would-be comedy. There’s a point midway through where it feels like all three actors onstage are in three entirely different productions, such is the disparity between the ways their characters are written and portrayed. There is much to be said about fake news, this is not it.