The Pirate Project
Coming as part of Outlaws, a series of thematically linked plays conducted at the Ovalhouse Theatre, comes The Pirate Project, an off-the-wall exploration of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. With buckles swashed, sails set and wild abandon thrown to scurvy land lubbers, the trio of performers, Chloé Déchery, Lucinka Eisler and Simone Kenyon embark on a quest to find their inner pirate.
The prospect of watching a play about pirates may not reach out and grab many over the age of fourteen. After all, these rogue figures have become (somewhat thanks to Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp’s tiring series of big budget Hollywood films) rather boringly embossed in pop culture. However, do not let this put you off The Pirate Project, for the trio of talented and charismatic performers bring to life an interesting, amusing and inventive spin on the roguish, demi-mythical figures. Flitting between each personal quest of discovery, the three assume the roles of certain historical pirates – Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Ching Shih. As the play unfolds, the exploration of the individual and the relationship each performer has to one another, themselves and the assumed piratical figure they embody, are energised, challenged and affirmed. And for the best part of its tidy running time, it succeeds.
Rather than approaching the subject with guttural vehemence and stabbing fingers towards male figureheads (although it does still happily mock masculine sensibilities), it approaches the subject with a much more of- the-wall style. The kinetic cast run, prance, roll, climb and kick their way through the stories, their boundless energy and daft humour alleviates potentially clumsy gender telling offs. Director Lucy Foster mediates the gender politics by utilising the cast effectively, conjuring relaxed and earnest performances which allow fluidity between the women and pirate scenes. The bridge between this is often humour in which Chloé Déchery and her electric timing stand out in particular. However, the overall flow of the piece is somewhat lacking, the points of interaction between the much weightier, serious side of the play and its off-the-wall humour are in need of greater consideration. The shifts from the absurd (a box full of moustaches) to the deadly series (a potential rape) don’t always marry, even in terms of purposeful juxtaposition.
What doesn’t disappoint are the ideas housed in the show. From the projected images of elderly ladies recalling personal mantras, to the interchangeable yet minimal set, The Pirate Project is definitely framed with a great manner of ingenuity, passion and creativity. The hodge-podge, lo-fi stylings work in favour of the piece and although a couple of ideas appear as distracting rather than befitting of the central themes, are in general well received. The Pirate Project is an honest, interesting and fun exploration of individual locus and contemporary female identity, with a balanced rumination placed upon those who acted against gender retrains. Yahaaargh!
For further information on The Pirate Project and to book visit the theatre’s website here.