She bakes. She knits. She has a pet crocodile called Nippy. Oh and she’s a pirate.
Based on the books by Geraldine Durrant and Rose Forshall, Pirate Gran has been brought to life by Scamp Theatre. The Pirate Gran books are popular with many boys and girls (and, some would say, fighting the cause for feminism) and the adaptation has really tried to do the books justice.
The set (designed by James Lewis) is phenomenal. Gran’s simple lounge furniture transforms into a ship and each individual part of it also doubles up as something else. Her armchair is also a washing machine, another becomes the galley and the lampshades are made from rum bottles and oars that double up as props.
The actors are enthusiastic, but could possibly have spoken a little more slowly and clearly (with the pirate accent of course) and Gran herself (Pauline Goldsmith) was particularly difficult for the children to understand. We did enjoy Gran’s Brave, Brave Pirate song and Peta Maurice’s characterisation as Grandpa.
However, the show belongs to Gran’s pet crocodile Nippy (designed by Toby Olié) who delighted adults and children alike. Similar in ways to the Lion King animals and the sea serpent in Captain Pugwash, Nippy is a puppet made from several pieces and the cast move each piece to make him come alive.
The script on the other hand needs a little bit of work. Most of it makes little sense to a small child, but is far too cringeworthy to please the adults. The line “Put the jam in. Jammin’ jammin’…” simply caused groans and other jokes didn’t garner more than a wry shake of the dad’s’ heads. I’m also not entirely sure what the moral of the story was…
My own little pirate (aged 5) declared it to be ‘a bit boring, although I liked the crocodile…’ whilst one little girl told me that ‘it was OK but a bit scary and I don’t think my sister liked it because she fell asleep’.
If the cast were to interact a bit more with the children in the audience (they could easily invite one or two up to ‘help’), add a couple more songs and reword the script slightly (obviously, leave some jokes for us grown-ups), it could be a really good production.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes