Most of the signs I've shown you have been quite amusing, but this is perhaps the most impressive sign I've seen for a while.
Southampton has long been one of the world's premier ports. Of all the ships to have sailed from Southampton, among the most famous are the Mayflower in 1620 and the RMS Titanic in 1912. The Mayflower Theatre is of course named after the ship that took the pilgrim fathers to America in 1620, while the RMS Titanic sank just over a century ago. At first glance you might wonder if someone got the two confused and put the wrong ship on the front.
RMS Titanic sank in April 1912 when sailing from Southampton to New York via Cherbourg and Queenstown. Of over 1,500 people who died on the ship's ill-fated maiden voyage, 549 were from Southampton1, 538 of whom were crew. The SeaCity Museum commemorates their story. However because of Southampton's association with the ship, Titanic The Musical began its UK tour here at the Mayflower Theatre. This did not go quite according to plan; it made national news when the show was abandoned on its maiden performance due to debris and plaster from the backstage wall fell on the stage in the scene in which the Titanic hit the iceberg.
One thing that certainly was an unqualified success was the model RMS Titanic used to advertise the show, which really was incredibily impressive. According to the local newspaper the Daily Echo, this was built in a shed by a 62-year-old joiner who joined the Mayflower's maintenance team 18 months ago. This goes on say the model has 500 lights, a smoke machine and a recording of the ship's foghorn, which was retrieved by divers from the wreck. The model is 17½ scale and 60-foot long. In the article the model's builder Russell Charlton said,
It's just a passion I love. It took a week to plan and two weeks to build. It looks the best at night when it's all lit up with lights right across the ship.
I certainly agree that it really does look impressive and has attracted a steady stream of tourists taking photographs of the model atop the canopy. Sadly now the play's run has ended the model is being taken away.
The Mayflower Theatre itself is a Grade II listed building that opened in 1928 as the Empire, and has also been called the Gaumont. It has seen performances by acts such as The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Queen.
I have mixed emotions about the place. For eight years in the early 21st Century it was the place of work of my old housemate Peregrin, who was the IT Development Officer. He got us both great seats to see The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show – Live there in early August 2012. It was the last time I saw him before his sudden death three weeks later. I have not been inside the theatre since.
But for one week it really was worth admiring from the outside.