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Musical tribute is a night to remember

How do you portray the deaths of 1,500 people in song and dance? In one of many centenary artistic tributes to the Titanic, the Belfast Operatic Company uses a 1997 Broadway musical to convey the tragedy of the ship and the hopes and dreams of victims and survivors.

While some might balk at such a tragedy receiving a stage treatment, this show works brilliantly and treats Titanic with reverence and realism. It builds up drama and tension over the running of the ship between the crew and the upper echelons, like J Bruce Ismay, the White Star Line boss who insists on a high speed to the dismay of designer Thomas Andrews.

But its best asset is its strong characterisation and the vivid depiction of class division - to say nothing of a set which captures the majesty of the ship.

Characters are inspired by and bear the names of real-life passengers, creating poignancy and genuine drama. We witness the fatal love of Isidor and Ida Straus who pledge to die together after Ida shuns a lifeboat. Light relief comes from Alice Beane, the social climber who relishes any opportunity to be with those in first class.

It becomes harrowing at the lifeboat stage when couples are torn apart and babies wrenched from their mothers.

The show is directed by Wilfie Pyper and lasts two hours 40 minutes - the length of time it took her to sink after hitting the iceberg. A Saturday performance begins at 11.40pm, the same time 100 years earlier as she hit the deathly iceberg.

The company promised an "unforgettable theatrical performance" and thankfully, delivered.

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