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Review: My Granny is a Pirate, Newcastle City Library

Val McDermid's picture book is brought to life in a 50-minute production which takes in various venues around the North East

Simon Veit-Wilson The cast of My Granny is a Pirate
The cast of My Granny is a Pirate

My Granny is a Pirate, performances at various locations until October 31

UP until yesterday afternoon, I thought my nana was the coolest one I’d ever encountered.

While more than ticking all the expected love, care and cuddles boxes, she also loved a whisky and lemonade, swore like a docker when the mood took her and had more attitude in her little finger than your average adolescent.

But no matter how much my lovely nan stepped outside the blanket box of standard grandparenting, there’s no denying it – she wasn’t a pirate.

(In order to elaborate, I’m going to have to ask everyone reading this to swear on the nearest gold doubloon that what I’m about to tell you goes no further. Done? Good.)

You see, young Jake, who I met yesterday, has a granny who is, in fact, a bona fide pirate.

She swigs grog from her tartan thermos and wears a frocked velvet coat and a silk sash with a built-in cutlass.

She has a cheeky parrot called Polly (who breaks wind when she’s asleep) and dreams about sailing the seven seas while refusing to give bingo house room.

She even knits Jolly Roger-themed baby clothes.

So, when Jake hopes to have fun with the bigger boys in their den of pretend are unkindly thwarted, he darts back to his swashbuckling granny’s house to squeeze in a fun-packed pirate adventure before fish fingers are ready for tea.

Adapted by Carina Rodney from Val McDermid’s picture book, the 50-minute production had the under-six audience, who had assembled on the floor around the stage deck, gripped from the word go with its combination of proper – not pandering – humour, rip-along narrative action-packed (yet contactless) sword fights, just the right amount of bottom-waving and a great live soundtrack.

Incorporating a capella harmonies (who knew cheeky big boys could sing so nicely?) with shanty-style instrumentals, the story was tunefully peppered from beginning to end, with the three-way pirate rap being a particular highlight.

Was there no end to this granny’s street cred?

A selection of puppets also made memorable appearances, including the ingenious Jolly Roger, who gives a whole new meaning to the term “doggy bag”.

Of course, everyone was more than happy to join Granny’s pirate crew – apparently you’d be surprised at how many chaos-creating toddler pirates there actually are in the world – and help row the Good Ship Fondant Fancy across the Seven Seas to defeat the naughty pirates.

Using just the right amount of audience participation – mimes for climbing the rigging, swabbing the decks, looking out for ships and doing a bit of the hornpipe were all enthusiastically delivered when required – the terrific cast, led by Jane Holman’s wonderful Granny, did everything to keep us in the hearty world they’d created. And it worked a treat.

Helped by a neatly-designed set which saw five wooden chests utilised to full effect, the shanty-off duel, which featured the maracas of justice, served as a wonderful finale and saw the young hero given the well-earned title of Jake the Brave.

It also had me wondering whether I could pull off a bandana, all the way home.

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