Pirates, exclamation mark. Eighteenth century pirates, eager to corrupt (in more ways than one) a Royal Navy ship under the command of the 'hapless' Captain Trumpeter. Murder, love, songs, a girl disguised as a boy. Romance. Sword-fights. Swashbuckling. Let's face it, though, this show was never meant to be plot-centric. The most gripping of the plot lines revolves around the aptly named Lady Vanity - the Captain's daughter - who has left Horatio, a visiting admiral attributed with 'a sex fixation', weak at the knees. No, not plot, but humour, is this show's strongpoint. Or so it thinks.
In its quest to be 'Blackbeard meets Blackadder', Piracy! is littered with try-hard references to popular culture, politics and what seems to develop into a token bid at feminism. There's a Marxist pirate (to think!), a Spanish aristocrat called Antonio Banderas and a captain's daughter who irately challenges the traditional female role in the wooing process. There's faux-realism, some sad efforts at clever meta and, hitting the reference at its cultural peak, repeated jokes about Keira Knightley's acting in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. These jokes are tired and largely unfunny, but at least it's clear that the cast are revelling in it - you can almost hear an echo of all the 'wouldn't it be funny, if... 's from rehearsals. Sadly though and unlike the cleverly crafted silliness of Blackadder, the attempts at humour in this show felt more like a bunch of anachronistic references, shoe-horned in for laughs.
There is, predictably, also a lot of bawdy humour. Disturbed mid-kiss by an intruder, the sexually forward admiral's daughter replies to the question, 'Halt! Who comes there?', with, ‘No one yet [Sigh.]’ Bawdy humour is, of course, part of the Blackadder-esque package, but it still seems a shame that, as a result, a show which might otherwise have appealed to children is instead wasted on a young crowd. Indeed, the one child I spotted in the audience looked decidedly bored. Further, of the many 'catchy songs' it boasts, the only one I can recall is a rendition of the Beegees' 'Tragedy', with the chorus of 'Tragedy' replaced by, you guessed it, 'Piracy!'. It is, at least, complete with synchronised dance moves and live guitar playing - for which they deserve some credit.
While cringeworthy, I can't fault the cast's energy or dedication (which, though often alienating, is also occasionally energising) and the confident Pirate Queen certainly has some stage presence. However, if you're looking for some decent comedy, don't head for the High C's.