Titanic - The Musical comes to the stage at the Kings Theatre, marking the 110th anniversary of its sinking

THIRTY years ago Jo Alldridge and her daughter Charlotte worked together in a show at The Kings Theatre for the first time.

Friday, 15th April 2022, 12:30 pm

Jo was Maria in The Portsmouth Players’ 1992 production of The Sound of Music, while Charlotte played Gretl.

Now they are reunited as actress and co-director respectively in The Kings’ in-house production of Titanic – The Musical.

‘It was the first performance she ever did,’ Jo recalls. ‘And that was the first time we worked together, so it's quite funny to come back around in slightly different circumstances.’

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The new show is a mammoth undertaking, a real community project with more than 100 cast and crew drawn from the local amateur dramatics scene.

The musical tells the story of the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic, which left Southampton on April 10, 1912. It sank with the loss of more than 1,500 lives after hitting an iceberg on April 15.

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Jo, who plays passenger Ida Straus, got involved after being encouraged to audition through the Players, ‘and then with Charlotte being involved it was even more exciting to have the chance to do it together,’ she adds.

Titanic - The Musical is at The Kings Theatre from April 20-24, 2022. Pictured are the cast and directors. Picture by Steve Spurgin

Charlotte co-directs with local scene veteran, and Guide Special Achievement Award winner, John-Paul McCrohon.

Charlotte says: ‘I've worked at The Kings before – the last community project The Kings produced was a youth production of Bugsy Malone, pre-Covid, and I assistant-directed on that.

‘JP is a very key part of the local amateur dramatics scene, so we both knew of each other but had never worked together.

‘It's such a mammoth piece with a relatively tight rehearsal schedule for putting on such a big show, it felt like it needed more than one brain and body on it – it needed a combined effort.’

Jo Alldridge as Ida Strauss

And being a community-led project, rehearsals have to fit around day jobs and education.

‘We've needed to be very organised,’ says Charlotte, ‘the challenge has been to hold in balance the fact that there are lots of local amateur performers in it who all have their own daily lives, but also wanting to put on the scale of the production that does the theatre and the piece justice.

‘So how do you manage to shoe-horn that scale of production into the daily schedules of 'normal' people rather than professional actors?’

Jo adds with a laugh: ‘It's been quite intense.’

Co-director Charlotte Alldridge. Picture by Steve Spurgin

Describing her character, Jo says: ‘I play Ida Straus, who's married to Isidor. They're a more mature couple who’ve been married 40 years and it's a very poignant storyline with what happens to them.

‘They're all real people, which has been so interesting for us as actors working on it, you can go and research your particular character and bring a whole new level of understanding to the role.

‘She's exactly the same age as me when she died, and I've been married nearly 40 years, so there's a lot of little details which are similar.’

Charlotte says: ‘That's one of the biggest joys of the piece – most people know some of the story, but the fact that nearly all of the characters are based on actual people aboard the ship means it really invites the audience into the hopes and dreams and ambitions of everyone when they stepped aboard.

‘You become so immersed in those stories the audience will almost forget that the inevitable will happen, and when it does you are so invested in those characters it is all the more devastating when the ship does go down; not only because of the loss of people in terms of all those numbers, but also because you understand the loss of all of those hopes and dreams because you've followed the characters through those stories.’

And the impact of the disaster is still felt, as Jo says: ‘The thing which struck me that I hadn't really engaged with before, was how much, even today, in the south, just how much it still has an impact on lives of people in the area.

‘We had a guy come and work on our roof the other day and he said his grandfather was a stoker on the titanic and he started telling me his family's story – he left eight children with no income and no support.

‘It still ripples down the generations.’

All net proceeds and donations on the night from the Gala Performance of Titanic on Thursday, April 21, will go to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Titanic – The Musical is at The Kings Theatre, Southsea from April 20-24. Go to kingsportsmouth.co.uk.