REVIEW: THE ACEDIAN PIRATES (Theatre 503) ★★★★★
THE ACEDIAN PIRATES is an incredibly complex, thought provoking and moving play. It asks us to consider our tendency to mythologise certain situations. It is dramatic and funny. It suggests that we should think before supporting causes just because they accord with the wants of our own country, without first considering the morality. Think Syria, think Biafra, think Vietnam. Think wars throughout the ages.
The play takes place in a single bare room in a stone lighthouse during a long running bitter war. The cast is made up of a group of soldiers and a single woman, Helen, who is known by some as ‘Moon’. The period in which the play takes place is not specified, it could be the future or it could be the recent past. Nothing is certain and nothing is detailed.
As the play opens, Helen appears bruised, bloodied and scratched, wearing a white soiled dress. She looks a damaged soul. She tells the group of men present on the stage, how she was, as a little girl, taken away and subsequently held and raped by a man she refers to as ‘Him’, and then by others too. Her only comment on ‘Him’ was that her father knew that he was evil because “one evil person can always recognise another”. Helen does not say why she is still a captive but she is being held by Capital State.
Is she in custody to protect her or to confine her? We don’t know. Moon/Helen has become an object of almost religious devotion and hope to the ordinary people and therefore useful to anyone who has her under their control. Helen is rarely on stage but is very much the main focus of every scene.
Soldier Jacob, is transferring from the army to the intelligence group of Capital State. He attempts to fit in as best he can with the help of his old friend Ivan, who is now his commanding officer. Jacob and Ivan are joined on stage by two other soldiers. A more senior officer, Bernie, and his junior Bull. Bernie is a small, precise, fussy man in a more elaborate uniform which marks his seniority. He is an old friend of Ivan and they have a casual friendship. Bull is a large intimidating character.
From the floor above, through the stone staircase, there comes the indistinct sounds of a raised angry voice and screaming from a woman who can only be Helen. None of the four characters on the stage have ever seen the legendary Helen but all profess to be fighting on her behalf without actually knowing why. When the inexperienced Jacob shows some concern he is seriously warned off by the more senior officers. He is told to stay away from her at all costs.
Poor Helen is played by the excellent and experienced Sheena Patel. Cavan Clarke plays the new boy Jacob. Ivan is played by television, film and theatre actor Matthew Lloyd Davies. Marc Bannerman (East Enders, Holby City and many more) played Bull. Andrew P Stephen who has appeared in many West End productions played Bernie. Finally Rowan Polonski who played the seriously disturbed Troy, has appeared in many television programmes.
The entire cast are fantastic. The Acedian Pirates is Jay Taylor’s debut play and was shortlisted for the Theatre 503 Playwriting Award in 2014. As well as dramatic, the play is very funny. How the writer managed to combine those two elements so well and so plentifully, is wonderful.
Theatre 503 is a nice “above pub” venue, comfortable and welcoming. This is very highly recommended.
Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: Savannah Photographic
THE ACEDIAN PIRATES plays at Theatre 503 until 19 November 2016