Writer-performer Michael Kinnan brings Never Let Go: An Unauthorised Retelling of James Cameron’s Titanic to the Edinburgh Fringe, condensing the three plus hour 1997 box office classic into a delightfully camp one man show. Drenched in a clear love for feature film, Kinnan showcases a masterful sense of characterisation, beautifully pitched comic awareness, and ingenious staging for the piece.
Never Let Go taps into public adoration and obsession for Titanic for this one-man redux capturing key moments including Gloria Stuart’s opening retelling, the Irish dance number, painting like French girls, the infamous car sex scene, and the inevitable sinking to create a truly unique and absorbing high camp theatrical piece.
Opening with a video reel which lays down the performer’s love for the world of Titanic complete with comic captions – we see cast tributes, Celine Dion love, and a snapshot of the zeitgeisty buzz that the Titanic name still harbours. Kinnan soon takes to the stage, back to the audience performing an intentionally shaky keyboard rendition of My Heart Will Go On capturing a sense of the comic spectacle soon to immerse the Assembly Studios audience.
Adorned in a corset around his waist and a shirt covering the top of his torso, Michael captures a blend of the feminine and masculine in his costuming – perfect for the swift transitions through the plethora of Titanic characters which he deploys with a seamless finesse. Completing the look are some impressively grand eyelashes and Kinnan’s own moustache. The performer is an impressively charismatic stage presence with a fantastic awareness of what makes a strong comic bit, showcasing an ability to elevate moments from Cameron’s film to previously unthought comic highs. One such moment sees Rose witnessing the ship for the first time, which becomes a strong comic scene thanks to Kinnan’s mannerisms capturing Rose’s hoity toity demeanour and the stifled giggles of supporting players.
Kinnan’s rapid transitions between characters (sometimes accompanied by a quick transitional spin) capture a stage presence with a multitude of talent. Bringing wonderfully camp takes on roles made famous by the likes of Kathy Bates, Billy Zane, Gloria Stuart or Frances Fisher, the actor is an adaptable chameleon finding humour in small traits, whilst also able to tap into a sense of reminiscence and nostalgia that audiences are likely to have for the film through wonderfully-pitched line readings. However, it is Kinnan as Rose that is perhaps the most fun to watch – embodying Winslet’s sensibilities and nuances to a scholarly degree.
Kinnan’s take on some iconic scenes from the 1997 classic also present us with masterfully staged moments of comic joy. A raucous theatre run-round to the famous lower-decks party scene, a handy step ladder doubling from countless props including battering rams or tables, whilst the arrival of a small water tank at the end signifies the inevitable final moments of the Titanic story. A dry ice machine elevates the rickety original car sex scene to new comic heights – complete with a recreation of the steamy window car bit. Whilst much of the joy from Never Let Go comes from Kinnan’s savvy characterisations, there is also a pleasure in seeing how the performer recreates iconic moments through his staging. Seamlessly integrated sound design further brings Never Let Go to life from foghorns to sound and musical cues further immersing us in this recreation of Cameron’s blockbuster.
Michael Kinnan’s joyously camp celebration of Titanic showcases his skills as a master of characterisation and comic staging, with Never Let Go shining as a Heart of the Ocean sized diamond of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.