Anne Bonny and Mary Read were two formidable women in history, who took to the high seas as pirates. Disguised as men, they made their mark by breaking free from the norms of how women were supposed to be back in their time - that is, respectable, a good wife, mother and so on. In this brand new musical Bonny and Read, their adventures were shared in a way that not only explored facts and myths surrounding them, but gave a strong sense of female independence and empowerment relating strongly to today's culture.
a strong sense of female independence and empowerment
The show's concept was strong, with a focus on first person storytelling, poetry, song and a very simple yet effective minimalist set of a pirate ship's mast and flag that doubled up as the gallows as the story progressed. About three of the songs seemed to pay a nod towards the musical Hamilton in an unusual usage of rap, trying to bring the idea of traditional pirate chants to a modern audience, which compared to the rest of the well constructed songs in Bonny and Read seemed to fall a little flat in energy despite the cast's valiant attempt to keep things moving when it came to these particular sections. What might have helped a little here would be moving towards (or back to) traditional pirate shanties to tie in with the rest of the songs to enable better flow. Despite this, Claire Novello's uplifting, honest and somewhat inspiring lyrics (ably aided by musical composer Frederick Appleby) and her style of script writing really brought these two women and their rebellious natures to life.
Being a four handed cast, everything was stripped down to the essentials so we could focus on the story. Jessie Waterfield's feisty approach to Mary Read was reminiscent of the character Kat Slater from Eastenders in nature (albeit not visually). She drew us into a world of survival being of the essence, wanting to travel the world and fighting her feelings as she sought the freedom she craved. Waterfield's voice was one that sent shivers down the spine and is destined to go far as a performer.
Hannah Louise Saxton took on Irish rebel Anne Bonny with a brash style of performance that had just the right amount of down-to-earth honesty, with a good mix of emotion that showed her journey as she turned toward piracy thanks to the love of her life Calico Jack. Saxton also had a voice that made you want to listen to her story and more.
Lawrence Harp had an element of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow about him as he took on Calico Jack himself. He managed to get the right balance of comedy and charm through his portrayal of a somewhat egotistical character who loved his woman and a lot of drink. Whereas in contrast, Christopher McDougal strongly took on the ever present narrator who took us on these ladies' journey into unchartered waters. His style reminded me of someone who would read the Horrible History books and be in the TV series as well, due to him being so entertaining and engaging without the audience losing interest.
If you love pirates, musical theatre, female empowerment and standing up for something you believe in, Bonny and Read had all this, as well as excitement, adventure and more.