Questing Vole has dusted off its 2013 Piracy show, polished it up with some topical humour and, on Friday evening, offered it up as a pay-what-it’s-worth preview of its second outing to the Edinburgh Fringe. Every seat in the East Oxford Community Centre was taken and, to judge by the applause at the end, the takings should have been good too.
The plot was pretty minimal, more of a framework on which to peg a collection of entertaining characters and their comic dialogue and songs. It involved a Spanish don (played with remarkable angularity of gesture and exuberant accent by Alice Pilkington) searching for the runaway Spanish Infanta among navy and pirate communities infiltrated by a number of potential suspects, allowing for a certain amount of gentle gender humour.
The writing was marvellous. It encompassed a wide variety of forms of humour, from the odd punny sequence (as you would expect given the show’s title), misunderstandings based on accent ('first' v 'worst'), surprising rhymes (eg 'scruples' with 'loop-holes'), and reworking of famous quotes ('once more unto the breeches!'), to the more intellectual but hilarious scene where the sailors speculate about alternative pirating lifestyles: establishing Paradise in Madagascar, or an 'anarcho-syndicalist approach', or founding a bank.
The acting was excellent.The cast slipped into their well-drawn characters as into second skins, and thoroughly enjoyed wearing them throughout. I particularly warmed to the down-to-earth One-Arm Jack (Cerian Craske), cringed at the portrayal of genial self-satisfied privileged superiority and sleaze that was Admiral Flash-Nobbe (Perry Hartland-Asbury) and admired Emma New’s 'corporate cougar' Pirate Queen, played with a touch of Pippa Evans. I also enjoyed the Pirate 'prince consort' character (Jasper-Rose Russell), who couldn’t get it into his head that he was not in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and consequently had to be killed off.
The singing was occasionally on the raucous side - but, hey, they are supposed to be pirates. Some of the songs were very funny and the great thing was, you could hear all the words; the band did a great job, and everyone loved the big finale number 'Piracy' set to the tune of the Bee Gees 'Tragedy', complete with cringeworthy choreography.
The costumes were perfect. Well done to Efi Gauthier for putting together such a well thought-through colour scheme and visually pleasing collection: satisfying swathes of heavy velvet, sumptuous rustling silks and satins for the spoilt admiral’s daughter, leather and boots and buckles and shiny buttons galore.
All in all, a most enjoyable way to spend an hour.