It’s an epic tale of life, death, hubris and human frailty that fascinates and confounds more than a century after the passenger ship – the pride of the White Star Line – struck an iceberg during her maiden voyage, and came to rest at the bottom of the north Atlantic.
The Last Lifeboat, making its Canadian premiere at Surrey Little Theatre this Thursday, tells the tale of of the man behind the sinking of the so-called ‘unsinkable’ passenger ship that will forever be synonymous with tragedy, and the inevitable fallout that occurred for someone who made the decision to not go down with the ship.
The cast of 15 portrays multiple roles in the story of J. Bruce Ismay, who owned the famous White Star Line that built RMS Titanic.
Ismay decided to save himself rather than go down with the ship, a decision that turned him into the scapegoat for one of the greatest disasters of modern times.
The play shows how the values of corporate greed and commercial success clash with the moral imperative of considering human safety, underlining how choosing to not follow one’s heart can destroy a life, even if it is saved.
These are all heady themes for an actor. Cloverdale’s Raychel Taylor, 10, is one of four children in the production.
A Grade 5 student at Don Christian Elementary, Taylor has three roles in the show, requiring multiple costume changes and a steady focus on the task at hand.
A relative newcomer to the stage (Taylor’s first role was in the 2015 Christmas panto, Ellie King’s Puss in Boots, by Surrey’s Royal Canadian Theatre Co.), the chance to audition for The Last Lifeboat proved irresistible for Taylor, who enjoyed watching the 1997 movie starring Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet – and acting in front of an audience even more.
Despite her young age and relative inexperience, she feels comfortable on stage.
“The theatre wants me to be up there performing,” she says. “I like getting into character and learning my lines.”
She enjoys the experience of being part of a community theatre production, and getting to hang out with other actors, because it’s like being part of a family.
Watch for Taylor as Vivian, Ismay’s first love when they were both young. She also plays Ismay’s daughter, Evelyn. Finally, she has a part as a young survivor on the lifeboat of the play’s title.
Rehearsals have run late some evenings, but she managed to keep up with her school work, completing assignments at school and maintaining her attendance record.
With those rehearsals behind her and the show set to launch tomorrow night (on the 104th anniversary of the day Titanic sank on April 14, 1912), Taylor is even more determined to keep acting.
“I want to keep doing this as long as I can,” she says.
Penned by Luke Yankee, “The Last Lifeboat is a parable for our times,” says director Dale Kelly. “It is a tale of one man’s destiny, shaped by good, if misguided, decisions, demonstrating how we’re judged by our actions, not our intentions.
The play is the SLT’s entry in the Fraser Valley Zone festival this May. The winner goes onto Theatre BC’s Mainstage in July.
The Last Lifeboat runs April 14 to May 14, at 8 p.m., Thursdays to Saturdays and on Sundays at 3 p.m. at Surrey Little Theatre, 7027 184 Street.
Tickets are $15 (half price on April 14). The April 15 and 16 performances have already sold out. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit surreylittletheatre.com, or go to brownpapertickets.com.