HE may be one of the world’s best selling artists but Sting is remarkably self-effacing when it comes to his musical, The Last Ship, which will tour the UK for the first time next year.

“I’m not the king of the castle here,” he said. “I’m just helping and I’m very happy to be here.”

We are sitting in a dressing room at the Sage in Gateshead just four days into rehearsals for the production which had a spell on Broadway in 2014.

Earlier in the day the 66-year-old had been working with the cast, including close friend Jimmy Nail who will star in the production, as they ran through the opening to the show.

Inspired by his childhood in Wallsend, The Last Ship is a story about the effects the closure of the shipyards had on the community.

It is fitting therefore, that the show will open in Newcastle before heading off around the country, ending its run at the Lowry in Salford Quays in July.

“We sort of did it back to front by doing it on Broadway first,” admits Sting. “So to bring it back to its source was kind of the obvious thing to do.”

During its run on Broadway, critics praised the show, particularly Sting’s songs for which he was nominated for a prestigious Tony Award,

Taking a production full of Geordie accents to Broadway was still a risk but Sting is adamant it was the correct thing to do.

He added: “I’m glad we have done it the way we have, I have no regrets about that. We have learned a great deal. We’re bringing it back and refitting it for British waters. It’s just an exciting process.

“The arc of the story is very much the same as the Broadway show, although it’s now a simplified story.

“There were maybe too many strands in the original production and director Lorne Campbell has managed to condense it. I think for British waters we needed to address the politics and socio-economic history of the north more. I’m very happy with it.”

As a songwriter, both with his band the Police and then as a solo artist, Sting has always said that his songs are more like stories with characters at their centre.

But it is one thing writing a four-minute song, a totally different ball game to write a cohesive theatre show. The Last Ship features more than 20 original songs including two from Sting’s number one solo album, Soul Cages.

‘It has been the most exciting seven years of my life. It has been hard, challenging, joyful, painful – all of those things’


He said: “I started writing a song called Shipyard where a host of characters introduced themselves and they talked about their hopes and their passions and anxieties.

“Each one had a different flavour; a different viewpoint which was a great place to start.

“Once I had that those strands, I just followed the lines of them all.

“It’s a bit like a crossword puzzle, you are just filling in the gaps. I love puzzles and I love this work.”

Director Lorne Campbell said he had consciously set the production in the mid 80s.

He added“We are placing it in a very specific historical moment.

“It’s after the miners’ strike and in the north particularly it was a time of political trauma.

A time when society was being re-shaped in a way which we are still feeling today.

“It will have a real resonance with theatre audiences.

“The wonder of Sting’s music is every song is a complete song in and of itself and yet they are the heart of the production.”

Sting – christened Gordon Sumner who got his nickname from a yellow and black jumper he used to wear constantly – began to work on The Last Ship in 2010.

He said: “It has been the most exciting seven years of my life. It has been hard, challenging, joyful, painful – all of those things and I’m really loving having the opportunity to start all over again.

“I never finish a piece of work, it’s always developing. So to be able to open the show in Newcastle and then visit theatres around the country is just fantastic.”

On Broadway, Sting took over from Jimmy Nail for several weeks during the run, so can we expect to see him at some point taking to the stage?

“I think Jimmy would kill me,” he laughed. “So no, it’s not going to happen.”

n The Last Ship will come to the Lowry in Salford Quays from July 2 to 7 during its tour.

Tickets are now on sale from 0843 208 6000 or visit the.lowry.com