Ghosts of The Titanic Park Theatre: Engrossing portrait of grief, capitalism and fake news ****

Ghosts of the Titanic at Park Theatre

Ghosts of the Titanic at Park Theatre probes conspiracy theories and fake news surrounding the sinking of the super liner - Credit: Piers Foley

There was a full house at Park Theatre to wave off the maiden production of Ron Hutchinson’s play, which goes on to make landfall at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre in time for the 110th anniversary of the liner's sinking.

It's the story of Emma Hinton (Genevieve Gaunt- simply fabulous) who travels to New York in the aftermath of the tragedy to establish the truth of why her fiancé (orchestra member Henry Barton) and 1503 other souls now find themselves at the bottom of the ocean.

She is befriended by Molloy, (played with a strangely quiet authority by John Hopkins) who tells her he is a journalist on the look-out for “human interest stories”. His hard-bitten editor Swanson is played by the wonderful Lizzy McInnerny with a wonderful Katharine Hepburn/Capt Janeway voice.

In the first hour of this engrossing work, the innocent Emma finds inconsistencies in accounts of what happened and snippets of information about design failures, inferior steel, a bunker fire, missing binoculars and all kinds of questions to which there are no answers.

She hits two motherlodes of information when, first, she meets one of the design team (the convincing Fergal McElherron), in New York to establish why his brother died in the sinking. Then, at a meeting with Swanson, who delivers a quiet but devastating critique of the power and ruthlessness of the American industrial/financial oligarchy and shares a devastating personal tragedy. McBride and Swanson both warn her off further enquiries.

Ghosts of the Titanic at Park Theatre investigates the sinking of the liner in 1912

Ghosts of the Titanic at Park Theatre investigates conspiracy theories and fake news surrounding the sinking of the liner in 1912 - Credit: Piers Foley

We then meet the perky but brutally determined Pinkerton agent Spinks (a terrific Sarah Ridgeway): fiercely bright but laser focussed on keeping her client’s (JP Morgan) reputation unsinkable.

After the interval, things go all Kafkaesque and rather disturbing with echoes of contemporary concerns around conspiracy theories. The catastrophe almost becomes an excuse for philosophical investigation into fake news, myth making, truth, identity and, sanity.

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With a first-rate plot, compelling script, excellent production and stagecraft and a marvellous score (by Stroud Greener Steve Edis) this is theatre at its best.