Ironically, the men were known as ‘the guarantee group,’ tasked with monitoring the smooth running of the ship’s maiden voyage. Headed by the chief designer, the group comprises senior tradesmen from the ship yard and the best four apprentices working for the company.
Interspersed with poignant songs, the show can’t quite make up its mind as to whether it’s a play with music or a musical. The sound is extremely loud.
In some ways, the show tries to cover too much ground. There are hints of anti-Catholic bigotry emanating from the largely Protestant ship yard. Coupled with this is a character who spouts Karl Marx as he rails against the class system. There is also the backdrop of the men’s personal lives. One of the apprentice’s mother is dying but she insists her son sails to America.
There is much playfulness in this show. Ciarán Nolan as Ennis Watson is a would-be poet who is humorous, sometimes base, but generally high on life. Brian Markey as Alfie Cunningham has an eye for the ladies. Amid the tomfoolery, the portents for the ship’s inaugural voyage are not good. When a flock of birds circles and lands on the liner, some of the men are worried. Their fear is dismissed as superstition.
The industrial looking set, with a raised gangway, is impressive. So too is the final sobering scene which avoids sentimentality.