This post was written by Pigeon Pair and Me writer Catherine Prescott.
Shiver your timbers and climb aboard for a moonlit adventure as this inspired production from the Nick Brooke theatre company brings Peter Harris’s The Night Pirates to life at the Rose Theatre, Kingston.
My girls, 3 and 5, didn’t know the book – but it didn’t matter. It’s an easy story to get lost in: as brave Tom drifts off to sleep, stealthy shadows come down the street and steal the front of his house. Are they ogres? Bandits? No – they’re rough, tough little girl pirates.
“Can girls be pirates?” asks Tom. The answer is of course they can – and having broken the glass ceiling on their way up to the crow’s nest, do they cut the rigging behind them? Not at all. Boys are welcome, and so the adventure begins.
This imaginative production understands the magic of a bedtime story. From the moment you enter the mist-riven theatre and hear the swoosh of the sea, you’re there. Inside the book.
Literally. The set works as a giant pop-up book, built from layers of moveable house fronts, billowing sails and lift-the- flap windows to peek through.
The energetic cast looks just as Deborah Allwright drew them, cleverly adapting their basic pirate costumes to take on each new character. From the huge hats of the girl pirates to the huge heads of the snoring grown-ups – my girls were amazed to learn there were only four actors in the show.
Playing the book
Beautifully, the book is a constant presence. Oversized copies decorate the set, aid the storytellers and even double as dance props. Director/adaptor Miranda Larson wastes none of the book’s best lines. “Quiet as mice, stealthy as shadows” works brilliantly as a pirate chant.
I loved the expansion of the story for the stage – for me, it filled gaps in the book. Captain Patch is given unexpected emotional depth – not Hamlet, obviously, but enough for actor Will Jennings to relish. As he sings, ‘I ended up, growing up, rotten instead,” he stalks the stage with deliciously evil, misunderstood glee.
The young audience, often invited to cheer, salute or create a soundscape for a storm, are never far from a new giggle or surprise. My girls were worried they’d be scared of the pirates, especially after Daddy’s genuinely frightening turn as Captain Blackbeard this summer in a Cornish cave. But the tone, even in the fights and storm scenes, is the right side of jolly throughout.
And at 55 minutes long, there’s enough to keep the adults on board. The narrative is playful and unexpected, the songs heartwarming and fun.
The production team has captured something magical here, a dreamy night-time story that meets a child’s need to feel both adventurous and cosy, daring and safe. As the cast sing in the finale, “A book is just the beginning”. Plenty of young imaginations will be set on fire here.
Watch the trailer here:
If you’d like to read about previous Rose Theatre productions, try these:
Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best theatres for kids in London.
The Rose Theatre invited us to review this show.
Catherine Prescott is a freelance copywriter, ex-blogger and mum to two small girls. Her website www.catherineprescott.co.uk is under construction.