Ghost of the Titanic explores conspiracy theories around 1912 disaster

As people around the world prepare to mark the 110th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, a new play is exploring some of the conspiracy theories that circulated at the time of the disaster.

Ghosts of the Titanic, at the Lyric Theatre, focuses on a bereaved woman who gets sucked into a maelstrom of questions.

It illustrates a 1912 take on what has more recently become known as 'fake news'.

"Mark Twain, in exactly the same year as the Titanic, said a lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has its boots on, and that absolutely seems to be what happened in this era with the Titanic,' says actor John Hopkins, who plays New York newspaper reporter Molloy.

The play's protagonist is Emma, played by Genevieve Gaunt. The Character's fiancé died in the disaster.

Emma navigates her way through competing narratives about the ship's engineering credentials, its insurability, the high-profile passengers who never boarded and ultimately questions over whether it even struck an iceberg.  

"When you look at the totality of facts, the conspiracy theory that can be woven from that maybe is a fiction but each of these details is very strong and if someone is driven by grief like my character is, it becomes a very sinister world," said Genevieve. 

The cast of Ghosts of the Titanic on stage

"It's a little bit like any great play, it shows you that everything has changed, I mean 1912 could not be more different to 2022 but yet the fundamentals of the best of human nature and the worst of human nature haven't really changed." 

Fergal McElherron plays east Belfast shipyard worker McBride who claims to have had doubts on the strength of Titanic's structure.

Fergal says the conspiracy theory theme resonates with everyday life now. 

"The play really looks into how that's not necessarily a new thing because what it's borne of is people either covering their tracks or not being able to come to terms with a tragedy and needing better answers." 

The play runs at the Lyric until Saturday 16 April.