DUBBED the 'Black Titanic', the sinking of SS Mendi was one of the worst maritime disasters in the 20th century waters, yet a startling story of hope and courage emerged. It is told by the internationally renowned Cape Town-based company Isango Ensemble at Nuffield Southampton Theatres City this spring.

14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts organisation set up to bring a creative response to the centenary of the First World War, has commissioned over 150 artists and organisations, working across all art forms, to take part in its closing programme from March – November 2018, including Nuffield Southampton Theatres’ SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill.

It is currently in rehearsal but will be NST City on 19 June-14 July.

SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill tells the tragic story of the ship that set sail from Cape Town to take hundreds of South African volunteers to join the Allied forces fighting in France. SS Mendi collided with a cargo ship off the coast of the Isle of Wight on 21 February 1917, with 646 men dying. Based on Fred Khumalo’s historical novel and performed by South African theatre company Isango Ensemble the play focuses on the story of passenger Pitso Motaung, who sailed aboard the Mendi but lived to tell the tale.

John Akomfrah, Danny Boyle, Peter Jackson, William Kentridge, Akram Khan, Anna Meredith, Jenny Sealey, Selina Thompson, Gillian Wearing and Rachel Whiteread are among the artists and performers who will also take part in 14-18 NOW’s final season of events.

As well as reaching across the whole of the UK from the Outer Hebrides to Cornwall and Derry/Londonderry to Ipswich, the programme will feature a number of international commissions spanning film, visual arts, music, theatre and performance, literary and spoken word and dance, including works in New York, Berlin, Paris, Cape Town, Adelaide, Trinidad, Athens and Shanghai.

Special themes of the 2018 season include: the centenary of the Representation of the People Act which gave women the right to vote; an exploration of the impact of the First World War beyond the UK including the role played by soldiers from Africa, India and the Caribbean; and the centenary of Armistice on 11 November 2018.

14-18 NOW has pioneered a new way of marking major national moments through the arts, commissioning artists to create works that respond to different aspects of the war. The programme has aimed in particular to bring the centenary of the war alive for young people by engaging them through contemporary culture. Over 30 million people have engaged with the programme since 2014.

Other highlights include:

• World premiere of a new 3D film by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Peter Jackson including never-before-seen archival footage of the First World War restored with finest digital technology

• PROCESSIONS, a mass participation artwork produced by Artichoke, inviteswomen across the UK to mark the centenary of women gaining the vote, with commissions by over 100

• William Kentridge commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall explores the story of the African porters and carriers who served during the First World War

• A new work by Rachel Whiteread in Dalby Forest to mark the centenary of the Forestry Commission

• Fly By Night, a performance by Duke Riley celebrating the role of pigeons during the First World War as part of LIFT 2018

• A new multi-channel moving-image work by John Akomfrah about the millions of forgotten African servicemen who fought and died in WW1

• A major new work by composer Heiner Goebbels co-commissioned with Artangel premieres in Manchester

• Composer Anna Meredith creates a new work with 59 Productions for the BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival

• Unveiling of Gillian Wearing’s statue of Millicent Fawcett – the first statue of a woman to be installed in Parliament Square

Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, said: “Artists are reinventing the war memorial as living art that captures our imagination and rests in our memories. The 2018 season is an ambitious and interactive programme, which we hope will reach new audiences in new ways with events across the UK, online, broadcast and around the world.

“We are proud to be working with many of the finest arts and heritage organisations in the UK to connect people with the First World War through contemporary arts.”

The 2018 season will culminate on Armistice Day on 11 November with a new work created by Danny Boyle which will invite people across the UK to mark the centenary. For details of the full programme, please see www.1418now.org.uk.

Tickets for SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill are available from the Box Office 023 8067 1771 or online at nstheatres.co.uk.