REVIEW: The Australian Shakespeare Company Presents CARIBBEAN PIRATES AT THE POLLY WOODSIDE

Here be pirates!

By Kim Edwards

The weather may have looked a little threatening, but not so the rambunctious and rapscallion band of pirates that have taken over a Melbourne icon this month. Carribean Pirates at the Polly Woodside is a fun family event for these school holidays, as a lovable crew of boisterous bucchaneers steal a treasure map, stage a mutiny, sing sea shanties and defeat the villain both on shore and onboard the historical sailing ship.

Carribean Pirates on the Polly Woodside PHOTO CREDIT_MattDeller

The opening of the show and warm-up audience interaction with Scurvy Dave (Andrew Kronert), Empty Drawer (Caspar Conrick) and Major Key (Jon Peck) was utterly sensational: the banter and comic chemistry between the three performers was superb, and their musical abilities and hilarious ad-libs throughout the show won my heart entirely. Glenn Elston‘s script has plenty of familiar piratical devices at play: I particularly liked the pantomine inclusion of Larry the cabin boy/Sally (the engaging Lucy Gransbury). the faithful ‘he’s behind you!’ jokes, and a few prop surprises late in the show. However, the storyline is convoluted and seemed to miss a lot of opportunities for clear set-ups, running jokes and more significant audience participation that would have kept the ‘new recruits’ more fully involved throughout.

The cast are high-energy and strongly committed to making the most of all they, have under the strong direction of Doru Surcel who is also the swashbuckling and evil Captain Cutthroat: Christina Marks works valiantly with the rather unsatisfying character of the Gypsy Pirate, the sword-fight choreography is excellent, and the impro demands of the location and excited young viewers were met with aplomb (the fist-shaking quips at the barrage of low-flying helicopters were an especial highlight.)

Overall, the unusual setting is delightful, there’s slapstick provided for the kids and real wit for the adults, and when the plot begins to drag or the exposition thickens, the cast are quick to rev their audience back up again as soon as the opportunity arises. Comfy shoes, hats and sunscreen, and coats are necessary bring-along booty for any outdoor theatre in Melbourne. A group ticket for four is $90, but the show is a good 90 minutes long, the wonderful performers are working hard to entertain on multiple levels, and your little pirates will even go home with a few golden pebbles as souvenir treasure.

DATES: Tue 13 – Fri 16 Jan 2015 at 6pm

Sat 17 Jan 2015 at 10am & 6pm

Mon 19 – Thur 22 Jan 2015 at 10am

Fri 23 & Sat 24 Jan 2015 at 10am & 6pm

WHERE: 21 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf
(on the Yarra in front of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre)

TICKETS: 038676 7511, or Ticketmaster 136100