Writer: Adam Ward
Music: Tom Wilson
Director: Alex Medlicott
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
In the past there has been some talk of Anne Bonny and some of Rachel Wall, but in Liverpool, when it comes to woman pirates, they are talking of Long Joan Silver.
An outrageous cartoonesque new musical by Liverpool Arts Society tells of young Joan O’Malley determined to follow in the footsteps of the family business of piracy. A doubtless tongue-in-cheek reference to Grace O’Malley from Western Ireland who rose through the villainous sea-faring ranks to run a fleet of 20 ships. And another famous pirate Captain Mary Read gets her own role in the show. But that’s where the history ends, and the pantomime takes over.
The hale-and-hearty bigger than life cast go over the top immersing the audience in their delicious tomfoolery right from the start. The humour is a broadside of crass and coarse and the songs seem to be more of a mickey-take of traditional musicals. A highly-choreographed duel which is not so much a display of swordswomanship as a vehicle to show-off tap-dancing skills.
Kimberley Athawes, who plays our heroine Joan, works hard the emotions created by her adventures when she smuggles herself onto her father’s ship. She has a lovely voice which occasionally is upstaged by the music. Her dad, Eoghan O’Malley (Liam Murphy), is the traditional male who thinks woman are only good for cooking and bedding. And his wife Petunia (Catherine Fahy) is clearly on board with the bedding bit.
Josephine Sherlock’s Captain Read brings a little glamour and gravitas to the role of a successful woman in a man’s world. Her poise commands respect. The main comic turns are provided by the slimy sexual pervert Kendro, impishly portrayed by a bearded Emily McGlynn, and Big Sal played by Joseph Ball rather like a bewildered Tommy Cooper in drag.
In contrast, Jordan Eyre is the traditional square-jaw stalwart second-in-command trying to do the right thing even if he is a pirate. Mollie Cranmer really lights up the stage with a sparkling performance of Four Finger Suzie the woman pirate who sees Joan as a bit of a rival. Clever acting too from Ryan K Byrne as the man turned into monkey by magic who befriends Joan for his own wicked needs. Guiding us through the swelling seas of this story is The Narrator. Thomas Gallashan delivering his lines rather like a town crier.
Although Joan was thrown about the stage quite a lot, some genuinely darker moments to further encourage us to cheer on would be welcome. The modest number of uncredited musicians tucked at the back deserve a round of applause for their excellent support for the songs. Why not set sail for this night out? You might find a little treasure.
Runs until 20th October 2018 | Image: John K Roberts Photography