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The Pirate Project (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Improbable, the imaginative company behind such diverse fare as Theatre of Blood, The Hanging Man, and Sticky, recently initiated an associate artist scheme. Director Lucy Foster, the first recipient, explores the little known subject of female piracy in this devised project; a mash-up of history, personal experience, stage fights and multi-media elements.

Actresses Chloe Dechery, Lucinka Eisler and Simone Kenyon play out scenes from the barely recorded lives of Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Ching Shih, 17th and 18th century women who became pirates, and passed themselves off as men in order to thrive: Girl Power on someone else’s terms, if you will. The cast use this material to explore female identity, and the areas of ambition and confidence which many modern women still find a struggle. “A pirate does not ask permission”, announces Dechery, “he just takes what ne needs.”

All three are on a personal quest to reclaim something lost. Unfortunately, what they’re looking for isn’t terribly interesting; in the case of Kenyon, it’s to reconnect with her rebellious younger self. Recorded interviews punctuate the action, focusing on the hard won wisdom of a group of female pensioners. Factor in the remarkable lives of the pirates themselves (the jilted Ching Shih took revenge upon her former lover by slaughtering his entire family), and these personal testimonies appear pathetically trivial.

That said, The Pirate Project is visually engaging and a lot of fun, and the sparky trio of Dechery, Eisler and Kenyon work well together. It also marks Foster as an intriguing talent to watch.

- Steve Timms


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