A merry crew of pirates set sail for adventure and frolics with a brand spanking new production by Scamp Theatre and Watford Palace Theatre. Prepare to meet the gregarious Gran who puts the ‘tricks’ into geriatricks…
You’ve got to hand it to Scamp Theatre. True to their playful moniker, they bring a rascally sense of mischief to their theatrical shenanigans, delighting audiences young and old in equal measure. They are also adept at spying the theatrical potential in well-loved picture books, lifting them from the two-dimensional page and transforming them into all-singing, all-dancing extravaganzas.
Previous tour de force triumphs from Scamp Theatre include the brilliantly witty adaptation of Stick Man, penned by the inimitable Julia Donaldson. This time, it’s a frisky frolic of a sea-faring tale, Pirate Gran, from the original picture book by Geraldine Durrant, illustrated by Rose Forshall.
One of the charms of Durrant’s book is that it challenges stereotypes and common perceptions of Third Agers as docile and doddery and creates a central character whose motto could be: thar’s life in the old gal yet (in much the same way as David Walliams created an unlikely octogenarian outlaw in his delightfully entertaining Gangsta Granny).
Whilst Gran may appear to live in cosy domesticity – ‘she bakes, and she knits, and says things like “Take your coat off or you won’t feel the benefit”’ – there’s plenty more to this piratical protagonist than meets the eye patch
For a start, her choice in pets is rather out of the ordinary. (Hint: this pet is of the ticking variety that would send shivers down Captain Hook’s spine).
There’s a very clever set design by James Lewis, where homely items in Gran’s living room, like the armchair and chintzy lampshade and curtains, magically transform into a pirate ship complete with full-blown sail as the merry crew set off to compete in the Pirate Games.
Puppet designer Toby Olié also showcases his puppetry pedigree (in the National Theatre’s War Horse, he had a hand as associate puppetry director in the creation of the magnificent and much celebrated steed) with the animated pet crocodile, Nippy, a real scene-stealer with his slinky, slithering antics.
Using the rich lyrical language that’s perceived as the native patois for pirates, there’s plenty of “aaarghs” and “aye ayes” as well as a goodly dose of sing-along sea shanties in this adventure. For those who like their grannies sweet and warm, this blue-rinse octogenarian hits the right note, too, singing a soothing lullaby to calm the nerves of her fretting crew when the storms hits.
What the show may lack slightly in narrative – basically, it’s a simple tale where Gran proves her sporting mettle in the Pirate Games – it makes up for in heart with fun appealing characters, not least Gran – played by Pauline Goldsmith with a wee Scottish twang and a twinkle of mischief in her eye, and her spiky pet, Nippy. There’s sufficient comic caper and visual gags from the gang of three shipmates (Martyn Dempsey, Jack Maurice and Peta Maurice) to keep audiences’ spirits high. It’s also refreshing to challenge stereotypes: not only is Gran a few steps away from the first flush of youth, she’s a female pirate. And that’s two good reasons to celebrate.
Why go For seafaring shenanigans, sing-along shanties and showmanship
Best for Aimed at wannabe pirates aged from 3 years – but shipmates of all ages welcome, especially grandparents
Top Tip Dress up in your best pirate costumes to get into the swashbuckling mood.
Our favourite bit We’re all in favour of showcasing the talents of Third Agers, and love the topsy-turvy idea of a granny pirate to rival Cap’n Jack
Don’t go If ye’ haven’t found yar sea legs yet!
While you’re there Invest in a copy of Geraldine Durrant’s picture book and savour more of granny’s adventure.
Author notes Geraldine Durrant is a journalist and features writer whose adventures starring Pirate Gran began in 2007 when she won a BBC competition to promote literacy and inspire families to read together. A 60-second version of the story was brought to life with illustrations by Rose Forshall and narrated by actress Linda Robson. Geraldine, herself a mother and grandmother, was then commissioned by the National Maritime Museum, with three further seafaring adventures of Pirate Gran.