As I settled into my seat for the performance of The Night Pirates at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, the woman next to me gave me a nudge and, indicating my daughter, asked whether it was her first trip to the theatre. That it was, in fact, my 11 month-old daughter’s fifth trip to the theatre indicates the sheer breadth of shows currently on offer for the under fives. And it’s not just in London that children’s theatre is booming. This touring production, which begins at the Rose Theatre, will take in sixteen locations across the UK from Barnstaple in North Devon to Hamilton in South Lanarkshire over the next two months.
The Night Pirates, based on the bestselling picture book by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright, has been adapted for the stage by the director Miranda Larson, a former writer for the hugely successful children’s shows Bob the
Builder and the Teletubbies. This swashbuckling musical adventure also features catchy songs composed by Barrie Bignold and, at times, quite ambitious accompanying choreography by Matt Cole.
The Night Pirates tells the tale of a young boy called Tom (played by the immensely likeable Jack McNeill) who joins a band of little girl pirates in the dead of night. The little girl pirates aren’t fussed that Tom’s a boy. He can still join their gang. They are quite adamant that his gender shouldn’t count against him. A night-time adventure ensues across the seas where they encounter rather useless grown-up pirates.
Larson’s passion for storytelling leaps off the stage. It’s not just Tom who is invited to join the little girl pirates – but the entire audience too. Boys and Girls and Mums and Dads. ‘No-one ever needs to be left out’ is the message. A young and energetic cast of four (Charlotte Cooper, Victoria Lucie and Will Jennings join Jack McNeill) keep the energy up for the duration of this 60-minute show. There’s heaps of audience participation – arm waving and shouting out is encouraged at several points. Larson employs plenty of tricks to keep her young audience entranced and engaged with this swashbuckling tale.
Designer Deborah Mingham has created a playful set. The large sail of a ship dominates upstage and acts as a screen for shadow puppetry. A sense of magic and the fantastic infuses the props and costumes, from the over-sized reading books and magical treasure chest to the large puppet head costumes of the grown-up pirates.
The Night Pirates is a lovely family show which celebrates inclusivity and creativity. At the end, the young audience are encouraged to think about the next adventure young Tom could embark upon. Larson wants the magic of her beautiful production to linger in the imaginations of her young audiences long after they’ve left the auditorium. Seeing the wide-eyed wonder of the young audience, I have no doubt that it will.
Review by Laura-Jane Foley
A much-loved adventure on the high seas from Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright.
One night, young Tom is awoken by noises outside his house. He peeps out of the window and what should he see but PIRATES… and stranger still – they’re GIRL PIRATES stealing the front of his house! Tom joins their adventure across the high seas to an island where some rather lazy and silly grown-up pirates are guarding their treasure. What could possibly happen when the young pirates make a surprise attack on the lazy Captain Patch and his bumbling crew?
Adapted and directed by Miranda Larson, this irresistibly charming modern-day classic combines original songs and swashbuckling adventures. Suitable for any budding young pirates up to 6 years old.
Illustrator Deborah Allwright
Author Peter Harris
Adaptor/Director Miranda Larson
Designer (set and costume) Deborah Mingham
Daniel Blacker – Understudy
Charlotte Cooper – Storyteller 1
Will Jennings – Storyteller 3 (male)
Victoria Lucie – Storyteller 2
Jack McNeil – Tom
The Night Pirates
Wed 6 Sep – Sat 16 Sep 2017
Written by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright, adapted & directed by Miranda Larson
A Rose Theatre Kingston & Nick Brooke Ltd co-production