Yoga king, eco warrior and singer Sting says he wants to emulate the success of Billy Elliot with a new musical based on his childhood growing up near the shipbuilding yards in Newcastle. AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson is among the singers on board.
The Last Ship is 61-year-old Sting's musical theatre debut and will tell the story of the decline of the Swan Hunter shipyard during the 80s in his native Newcastle, where he used to watch as huge vessels were built and launched on the north bank of the River Tyne.
The musical follows a group of workers facing unemployment who decide to build their own ship as the Thatcherite revolution sweeps the north.
Songs from the musical will be released as an album next month and reportedly incorporate traditional Northumbrian pipes, shanties and reels into a score influenced by Gershwin and Sondheim. The Unthanks and Sting’s fellow Geordies Jimmy Nail and Brian Johnson of AC/DC will featue on the songs.
“There was the shipyard at one end of the town and the coal mine at the other,” Sting told New York magazine. “There wasn't really much clue about how you would make a living if you didn't want to join those two industries. I didn't. Education and music became my escape. And then, in the eighties, everything shut down. I've carried survivor’s guilt ever since.”
This is not the first time Sting has tackled industrial decline during the Thatcher era. His debut solo album The Dream of The Blue Turtles in 1985 featured a song called We Work The Black Seam which was about pit closures in the eighties.