NST will present the world première of SS Mendi, Dancing the Death Drill, at NST City from Wednesday through til July 14, with previews from today, as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War Centenary.

Mark Dornford-May directs the production, which tells the startling untold story of the sinking of SS Mendi in the Solent in 1917, and is brought to life with original and powerful live music by the critically acclaimed Cape Town-based Isango Ensemble.

This story of SS Mendi is a powerful and moving celebration of life at the moment of death.

A group of men who start out on their journey as individuals, small groups from different tribes, with conflicting cultures and world views, become united.

A group of brothers dance the death drill as the boat goes down.

January 1917, 823 South African men board the SS Mendi in Cape Town, volunteers for the British Army bound for the Western Front. Months later, the ship sails off the coast of Southampton. Heavy pre-dawn fog shrouds the impending disaster. The collision comes with such force the SS Mendi sinks in minutes.

By the time rescue arrives it is too late for most.

Dubbed the ‘Black Titanic’, the sinking of SS Mendi was one of the worst maritime disasters in the 20th century in UK waters. Yet a startling story of hope and courage emerges.

Director of Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Sam Hodges said: "It’s a real privilege to be working with a company of the calibre of Isango Ensemble on this previously untold story from Southampton’s past.

"For a story of this magnitude to have been whitewashed from the history books beggars belief and we’re proud to be developing the world premiere, continuing NST’s commitment to telling local stories of national and international significance.’"

Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, said: “We are delighted to be commissioning Isango Ensemble for this powerful work about an untold tragedy. This new production will connect today’s audiences to the lost lives and histories from 100 years ago.”

Tickets are available from the Box Office 023 8067 1771 or online at nstheatres.co.uk.