Sending out an S.O.S. - Message in a Bottle washes ashore April 2 – 7

Mar 25, 2024 / Blog
By Page Leggett

When Kate Prince was creating Message in a Bottle – a dance-theater production based on Sting’s music – she kept the exact storyline secret from her assistant choreographers.  

“We’ve never been in that situation,” said Lizzie Gough, an assistant choreographer and frequent Prince collaborator. “She wanted us to grow with the story as she was creating it. So, she had us write in diaries what each character felt and was going through. And this wasn’t just for the leads; it was for the ensemble roles, as well.”

The “situation” Gough referred to is that of being a refugee. Prince wanted to convey the trauma they live through and the resilience they develop or discover within themselves.

The seed was planted when Prince was in the audience for Andy Kim’s harrowing 2013 TED Talk. Kim and his family fled North Korea when he was a teenager; he was orphaned during their journey.

Prince went through a research and development (R&D) phase where she read extensively and watched documentaries about the plight of refugees. “We followed a girl called Rania and her journey,” Gough said. Her story was told in The Guardian, as well as through video she shot.

Rania has seen the show and talked to the cast. It was important for them to hear her story first-hand, Gough said.

The jukebox show with a serious message plays Knight Theater April 2nd - 7th. It features 27 songs – edited and rearranged – written by 17-time Grammy-winning Sting plus choreography by five-time Olivier Award nominee Prince, whose renowned narrative choreography includes West End (London) hit Some Like it Hip Hop.

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The work, which originated at London’s famed Sadler’s Wells Theatre, features a variety of dance styles from ballet to break dancing, from jazz to acrobatics.

The songs have been rearranged, but that’s Sting’s distinctive voice you’ll hear. The Grammy- and Tony Award-winning Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen) “scored it and made every song link together,” Gough said.

You’ll hear a woman’s voice, too. It’s that of Beverley Knight, MBE, who’s considered one of Britain’s best soul singers. She grew up singing gospel and counts Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke among her influences.


In this show, every song serves the story. Every line advances the narrative.

Audiences take from it what they bring to it. “If you follow politics, then you might be drawn to  the refugee story,” Gough said. “If you’re into Sting’s music, that may be your favorite element. And if you just love dance, then you’re going to love this. It’s all open to interpretation.”

‘Dance is a universal language’

There’s not a word of dialogue; it’s all music and movement set to iconic songs, including Every Breath You Take, Roxanne, King of Pain, So Lonely and more. "Dance is a universal language," Gough said. “Although there’s no speaking, you get the message. And Kate is always inclined to send a message.”

Prince is “a massive Sting fan,” Gough said. “She told [Sir] Alistair Spalding – the director of Sadler’s Wells – she had an idea and asked if he could possibly get a meeting with Sting. That got the ball rolling.”

Sting did more than greenlight the concept; he was a creative collaborator. And Gough said he’s happy with the outcome: “Every time he sees it, he tells us it was amazing. He says he’s heard his songs many, many times over the years, but to see them in motion is a different feeling.” 


In addition to serving as assistant choreographer, Gough is also resident director (meaning she travels with the show) and occasionally dances in the show herself. A star in her own right, she was a finalist on BBC’s So You Think You Can Dance in 2010.

She leads a company of 22 other dancers. Up to 14 are on stage at any one time – and each one is essential. “The beautiful thing with Kate is that every role is important,” Gough said. “The show can’t function with one person missing.”

Message in a Bottle is physically demanding for the dancers. It’s also an emotional ride – for them and the audience. “This show is so much more than just 5-6-7-8. There is a real and emotional story at the heart of it.”


More Info for Message in a Bottle
Based on the songs of Sting. Directed and Choreographed by Kate Prince.

Message in a Bottle

Based on the songs of Sting. Directed and Choreographed by Kate Prince.

10% Off Groups 10+ plus one (1) complimentary ticket. Valid on select performances and price zones.

Apr 2 - 7, 2024