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Stage Review: Experiencing The Titanic Experience
Once… more… we open the door. To some locally produced Shanghai theater! Sailing the seas of cheese on the Huangpu. All aboard!
By Nov 3, 2017 Stage
Now sailing (and… tragically… romantically… sinking) on the high seas of the Huangpu is Ship of Dreams - The Titanic Experience, a new theater production from Shanghai’s own DreamWeaver Productions. The mise en scene: A three-story Huangpu ferry ship, outfitted inside and out to look like the unsinkable, evidently-really-quite-sinkable R.M.S. Titanic herself. As a piece of promenade theater, the action unfolds in multiple focuses in multiple areas, and simultaneously, with a roving audience traveling around the set according to their own design, observing and, at times, taking part in the different scenes. In a mostly dialogue-free performance, the cast wordlessly mimes out moments of love, loss, greed, camaraderie, tragedy, and death in diverging and interwoven scenarios and narratives that culminate into…

…well.

Spoiler ALERT: The Titanic sinks at the end.

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The major content grist for Ship of Dreams - The Titanic Experience is James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar Awards and box office juggernaut Titanic, and the central story line is indeed the love story of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack and Kate Winslet’s Rose, almost thwarted by Billy Zane — damn you, Billy Zane! — and ultimately undone by drifting plywood. Damn you, drifting plywood!

Other characters from the movie pop up, as do historical figures present on the doomed voyage. John Jacob Aster IV is in it — incidentally his namesake building, the Waldorf Astoria, is view-able from the ship’s deck — as is (I think) “the unsinkable” Molly Brown, and, of course, the Captain.

The band is there as well. That heroic band…

This is all on a ferry on the Huangpu. It’s pretty bonkers. Not even done just describing it.

A further element to the show is the available ticketing, which is separated into First Class passengers and Third Class passengers. First Class passengers dine on a full 7-course dinner and receive a tour of the ship with the Captain. They also get free-flow from the cocktail bars because c’mon son — this is Shanghai. Third Class passengers, admitted to the show after the tour, get a few free drinks and an envelope of Titanic bucks to gamble and barter with to work their way up. (You basically use the money to bribe your way into rooms to see different scenes.)

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It’s pretty involved.

The creative inspiration for the production is London-based theater company’s Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More a massive, enthralling, and jaw-dropping piece of promenade theater inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth that’s taken Shanghai by the throat for the last year or so. DreamWeaver Productions explicitly cites their own experience of Sleep No More as their creative impulse behind making this show. In doing so, they’re inviting comparisons between the two, which opens them to criticism in a few regards.

The Titanic Experience is a much, much smaller production with a much smaller budget. Set design isn’t nearly as elaborate and intricate as Sleep No More. If you go expecting four floors of video-game inspired terror you will be disappointed. They aren’t offering a full-on “insanely surreal” environment. The sets reference the historical ship in a prosaic, charming, DIY kind of way. The sets reference the movie.

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Likewise, Sleep No More offers a cast of professional, international dancers, mime artists, and actors who have been honing their performances for years into these visceral scenarios that play out right in the faces of a silent, masked, voyeuristic audience. Despite all the death going around, The Titanic Experience is a much, much lighter touch, with guests even encouraged to dress up in period clothes. It's more like a party, hanging out with friends at the cocktail bar. And you’re never quite taken out of the situation you came in on: It’s a boat on the Huangpu and people are acting out scenes from the movie Titanic.

It IS that.

But... but, I know. Sounds fantastic, right?

So yeah, that actually comes back around to being the main enjoyment of the show. With the Jack-Rose-Billy Zane triptych serving as the centerpiece to the show, it ends up being a pretty delightfully campy. Think of the iconic scenes from the movie — are you thinking of them? — yes, they are included in the show. My heart will go on for it.

So yeah, it’s campy. And ambitious. And wonderful if you're in the right mind for it. And... it's a clever idea. If you’re a fan of the movie you should check it out.

They also have two bars on the ship. Incidentally.

Recommended cocktail: “The Iceberg”.

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'Ship of Dreams - The Titanic Experience' is on until November 25. Tickets available here.

6 comments.

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  • 11 months ago Cstonerun

    you had me at cocktails and camp

  • 11 months ago TatyanaDali

    That was a joke, not worth a 1RMB!

  • 11 months ago BanuPinter

    The lousiest thing I have ever seen in my whole life. I am sad for my money and for my time!

  • 11 months ago lilithedead Unverified User

    where r the bang picssss!!!???

  • 11 months ago Spookysony Unverified User

    Drinks are not for free! editorial mistake or false marketing but: On top of the rather expensive tix you have to buy coupons for drinks at the entrance! Quite disappointing experience, nothing coming close to sleep no more- def NOT worth the money

  • 11 months ago artheart.

    After experiencing this the other night I feel it is my duty to warn others about this show.
    It is absolutely NOTHING like Sleep No More and frankly it is insulting to say that it is. "Guests first receive a personalized package mailed to their home detailing their journey 1 to 2 weeks before they board the ship" - this does NOT happen.
    The ship is an old janky tour boat which has a couple of random objects strewn about as a "set" - it is mostly plastic cubicle walls and cheap knickknacks.
    Tons of open space with nothing going on. Barely anyone on board. No ambiance.
    There were no snacks, though there was free flow booze. However I ordered the same drink 4 times and it was completely different every single time, and not in a good way.
    There was barely any acting going on.
    It was freezing inside.
    This was the most cheaply put together, hodge podge, travesty of a show I've ever seen. Elementary school musicals are more entertaining and better put together.
    There are some bad reviews on other sites and on here and I wish I had read them before I wasted so much money thinking it was going to be a professional production. I wish I could get my money back. 880 down the drain for something that was worth about 100 RMB. I can't even imagine what the people who paid 5000 would say.
    Keep your money and DO go see Sleep No More, it's the best thing going and costs less than this train wreck of a boat ride. Or hit up an all you can eat and drink brunch - you'll be much happier.

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