How To Be a Pirate – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Adam Stevenson

Writer: Max Norman

How To Be a Pirate is less of an instructional guide and more of a playdate with an inventive and hyperactive friend.

The audience is included in the crew as they join captain Max Norman on the search for treasure, using a map found inside a box of cereal. Together the crew battles the dreaded Captain Birdseye, escapes the interior of a greedy Cyclops, hob-nobs with Poseidon and meets a talking pineapple. At the beginning, the audience is shown a narrative arc (of a cuddly Noah’s variety) but it didn’t trouble the show much thereafter.

This ship is a ramshackle affair filled with fun homemade props, which are never quite where they are supposed to be, and puns painful enough to make a dead man groan. It avoids taking in bilge due to the engagingly energetic figure of Norman, who smiles his audience into doing fairly silly things as he gleefully does very silly ones. It’s a show that needs a willing audience but it’d be difficult to imagine one that he couldn’t charm onto his side by the time the adventure is underway.

While never running into the doldrums, the performance is little becalmed in a scene held in Davey Jones’s Locker, where the character of a French waiter stays around a little too long, followed by the character of a toothy dancer who seems a little too distant from the piratical theme. References to The Matrix are also a bit of a puzzle.

Beneath the silliness, there’s a deep childhood nostalgia, with the original Captain Max being an eight-year-old boy at a pirate birthday party held in the mid-nineties. Nurtured by Neverland, the audience is encouraged to lay aside being grown-ups for an hour, play pretend and have an adventure. Anyone wishing to open the toy-box and prepared to play along will have a great time.

Runs until 16 March 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Come and Play

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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