from the book by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright.

Tour to 10 July 2011.
Runs 40min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 June at Unicorn Theatre (Clore Theatre) London.

Excellent theatrical re-creation of children’s book.

In The Night Pirates Theatre Hullabaloo have a magnificent show for 3+. Adapted from a book written by Peter Harris and illustrated by Deborah Allright, it’s colourful, has a sensuous sound score from Wayne Walker-Allen, is deftly directed by the theatrically inventive Sarah Argent and blessed by fine performances.

Stephen Cavanagh as the narrator-figure with a gently sympathetic manner, invites audience comfidence while casting a calm normality over the fantastic, dreamlike adventures befalling young Tom one night, from the safety of his home.

Credited as Tom, it’s not that David Thomas Walton gives a wooden performance, just that he is actually a puppeteer manipulating a potato-faced, carrot-haired little boy, whose look of surprise when told he is brave by the narrating Moon is comically expressive, and whose puppet figure contrasts the lithe, balletic girl pirates he encounters, their action and speed counterpointed by his more deliberate wondering and movement.

When the pirates arrive, it’s in the form of Maisie Whitehead and Jessica Parke, dancers who can also handle the – admittedly spare – dialogue; a combination of movement and speech not always apparent in theatre. Kitty Winter’s choreography is particularly impressive when not tied to sailor-like movement, veering towards mime – though that provides an easily-understood element, accompanying the dancers’ more atmospherically expressive moments.

Bek Palmer’s set, with a suspended moon from which Cavanagh descends, allows also an opening shadow-play against a house façade, the revealing of Tom’s comfortable-looking bed and the subsequent rolling-away of the house-front as his pirate-flavoured adventure begins, all within the moonlit tone of Nick Kent’s lighting.

After being removed as Tom’s world opens up to the adventures, this façade finally returns, as if nothing had ever been disturbed – except, as a surprised postman discovers in the closing moment, it’s upside-down, perched on its chimney-top.

A bit like Tom’s world perhaps, except he’s left with the experience of his adventures, the courage he doubted in himself encouraged by his experience. Besides being visually, aurally and theatrically atmospheric, the play’s contrast between a safe-as-houses existence and the scope of a young imagination makes The Night Pirates an infant must-see.

Moon: Stephen Cavanagh.
Tom/Ensemble: David Thomas Walton.
Captain Patch/Ensemble: Maisie Whitehead.
Captain of the Girl Pirates/Ensemble: Jessye Parke.

Director: Sarah Argent.
Designer: Bek Palmer
Lighting: Nick Kent.
Composer: Wayne Walker-Allen.
Choreographer: Kitty Winter.
Puppetry consultant: Alison McGowan.

2011-06-17 16:55:37

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