Going down laughing: ‘Jimmy Titanic’ might be first comedy about ‘unsinkable’ ship

Colin Hamell takes on 20 roles to tell the story of the ill-fated oceanliner in "Jimmy Titanic."
Colin Hamell takes on 20 roles to tell the story of the ill-fated oceanliner in “Jimmy Titanic.”

“Humorous” might be the last thing most people would call the story of the ill-fated Titanic, but that’s the word actor Colin Hamell uses to describe the New Repertory Theatre’s “Jimmy Titanic.”

“This is the Titanic as you’ve never seen it before,” says Hamell.

An Irish shipbuilder named Jimmy Boylan is the central character, but Hamell takes on 20 roles that include European immigrants, a politician, a New York Times editor, first-class passengers, angels — and God.

“The heaven scenes really add the humor,” explains the actor. “Archangel Gabriel is very effeminate and God is played as an inner-city, chain-smoking Dublin gangster type.”

The scenes between these two are Hamell’s favorites to perform.

“They appear in the play when they’re needed,” he explains. “The demise of the Titanic is such a tragic story. These scenes lift the audience back up again.”

There are no costume changes — or sets — in the show, so Hamell must carefully differentiate between each character.

“The key is very clear body language: the way you stand, the way you hold your hand for each character,” he says. “You get to recognize each one as the play unfolds.”

Changing accents, too, is crucial. Hamell, who grew up outside of Dublin, has had to master quite a few accents: Northern Irish, French, Spanish, English and American.

Offering more than just laughs (and there are many), “Jimmy Titanic” explores the event from all sides, and perhaps from some sides many Americans have not considered. “A lot of people don’t realize the ship was built in Belfast,” says Hamell, who plays the mayor of Northern Ireland’s capital city in part of the show. “He’s very upset that their ship building industry will suffer because the Titanic went down.”

If you go

“Jimmy Titanic”
June 19-30
Black Box Theater
321 Arsenal St., Watertown
$36, 617-923-8487
newrep.org


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