Tales From Titanic Survivors Made Into New Play With Stars From TV

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TITANICPLAY
Actores Jack Beale (left) and Jay Villiers with director Charlotte Westenra | PA

Testimony from survivors of the Titanic will be brought to life in a new play to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

The dramatic production is based word for word on the accounts passengers and crew gave to one of the official investigations into the 1912 disaster.

Titanic - Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry will be staged in Belfast, close to where the liner was built.

The play, by award-winning writer Owen McCafferty, will debut in the city's newest arts venue - the MAC - later this month.

Directed by Charlotte Westenra, the 14-strong cast includes Thomas Howes from hit ITV drama Downton Abbey, who will play George Symons, a look-out on the ill-fated ship.

Another TV star cast in the MAC production is Ben Caplan, who recently starred as Pc Peter Noakes in drama Call The Midwife. Caplan will play Sir J Simon, the solicitor general at the British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry.

Belfast-born actor Ian McElhinney, who stars in HBO's Game Of Thrones, has been cast as the court clerk, the only fictional character in the production, who provides the role of narrator.

Cast members took a break from rehearsing today to visit the new multimillion-pound Belfast Titanic visitors centre in the docklands where the liner was built.

Gillian Mitchell, director of programmes at the MAC, said the drama uncovers many powerful personal stories of the survivors.

"Everyone knows the tragic story of the Titanic sinking, but less well-known are the individual stories for survival that were uncovered during the inquiries that followed," she said.

"Having read Owen's fantastic script, I was gripped by the real-life drama that these people not only endured on that fateful night, but on the weeks and months following it in court. That they were brought to an inquiry immediately after the event, while emotions were still so raw, is just something that wouldn't happen today.

"It has made for a really compelling piece of drama that will work so well on stage."

Noirin McKinney, director of arts development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: "The Arts Council was delighted to be able to fund a brand new contemporary theatre piece, which explored the personal stories behind the Titanic.

"As the first drama to be staged in the new theatre, Titanic will capture the imagination of local and international audiences, bringing to life historical accounts of one the most tragic events in our history."

The production opens on Sunday 22 April. Tickets for are available online from www.themaclive.com or by phoning 028 9023 5053.