A LIFEBOATMAN from New Brighton will be getting that sinking feeling this week as he takes a leading role in the most famous story of a ship going down at sea.
Tony Clare, 54, has been a volunteer with the RNLI for more than 30 years but is about to tread the boards of the Empire Theatre in the musical Titanic.
And although he admits to being nervous it is a role which has struck him as being more than a little ironic, given his day job and his years actually rescuing people at sea.
West Kirby Light Opera Society is pulling out all the stops to stage what will be its largest show ever and the Merseyside premiere of the Broadway musical.
And Tony Clare, who as well as being a volunteer on the lifeboats, works as a safety adviser for the RNLI, will take the role of one of the survivors and heroes of the tragedy, second officer Charles Lightoller
He said: "I've been involved in lots of rescues in real life, but you don't think about the danger until after it's over.
"It's very poignant. I've seen similar stuff and the effect the sea can have, although not on the scale of the Titanic, fortunately.
I've seen the desperate look on people's faces in real life as they have tried to get on to the lifeboat."
He said: "Luckily the character I'm playing survives the sinking and is one of the good guys. He was played by Kenneth Moore in the film A Night to Remember where he was heroic, but in Titanic he was played as if he were an upper class twit.
"Since I got the part I've done a lot of research into what he was like. A lot of what he did afterwards is straight out of boy's comics. He was the last person to be rescued from the Titanic and was actually launching a lifeboat as the ship went down.
"He commanded a destroyer in the First World War, and took his own boat to Dunkirk, aged 66, to help bring British soldiers back at the start of the Second World War. He was shipwrecked four times.
"It's quite daunting playing someone like that.
"But there are a lot of parallels between what he did and what we do on the lifeboats. He helped save a lot of lives then, and during the rest of his life."
With an on-stage cast of 95 and a 24-piece orchestra the story of the Liverpool-registered Titanic, which sank on April 15, 1912 with 1,517 people losing their lives, is a huge show for the local company.
The musical features many real life characters from the tragedy including the designer Thomas Andrews, owner J Bruce Ismay and, of course, Captain Edward Smith who went down with the ship, and is played by Mike Ellis who has grown a beard especially for the part.
Mr Clare also works for the RNLI as their Sea Safety Adviser for the North of England, helping RNLI volunteers give safety advice to boat owners across the country.
He said: "We give free safety advice and encourage safe practice for people using boats. That way, instead of us going out to look for bodies in the water we are looking for people in lifejackets."
Mr Clare, whose son Ben has followed his father on to the stage and is appearing as a dancer in Guys and Dolls in the West End, says he usually plays baddies and it makes a change to take on the role of one of the good guys.
He said: "I don't do shows every year because my job takes me all over the north of England and I end up driving hundreds of miles to get back for rehearsals, but I have to say it's definitely been worth it."
Previous shows have mainly been staged at New Brighton's Floral Pavilion Theatre and Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre and this is the company's first at the Empire.
Titanic the Musical is at the Liverpool Empire, from Wednesday June 8 to Saturday June 11, with two performances on the Saturday.