Review of “Crossed Swords” York Footlights Theatre, Upstage Centre Theatre by Helen M Sant

pirates bonny and read

In 1718, during the so-called Golden Age of Piracy, two pirates gained notoriety as the most bloodthirsty of their crew. The fact that they were women, is probably why so little is known of their story in modern day Britain. For the same reason, this is a tale that needs and deserves to be told.

Olivia Jayne Newton has done just that, in writing and co-directing with Daniel Wilmot, a well imagined exploration of the lives of Anne Bonny and Mary Read. (Olivia Jayne Newton and Natalie Clare Brimicombe). With sparse historical accounts to go on, the script has re-interpreted events to great effect for a contemporary audience.

Some innovative and impressive touches bring the story to life, blending film footage and stage very effectively. A sense of being at sea is captured and created, early on with sound, setting and costume.

The production strikes a balance between drama and comedy, with some excellent comic timing from Samuel Valentine as pirate and rogue Henry Smythe. Other notable performances were from Daniel Wilmot for great stage presence as Jack Rackham and Oliva Jayne Newton as Bonny with an impeccable Irish accent. James Tyler as James Bonny was the most despicable husband a girl could ever wish for and will leave you rooting for his just desserts!

The show combines dark and light: duels, pistol fights, skirmishes and appropriate pirate language intersperse with engaging sea shanties. Watch out for the youngest member of the cast, talented Jools Morgan, accompanying many of the pieces on violin.

This is altogether a well-rounded show with much to enjoy. It raises intriguing questions and makes you think about a period of time lost in the archives. Not just a jaunt on a pirate ship, this is a story of secrets, danger and desperate measures that women such as Bonny and Read were forced to take.

HarpTo catch Crossed Swords, before it leaves port, you have three golden opportunities left:

Saturday 11th July 730 pm, Sunday 12th July 230 pm matinee and 730 pm.

The theatre is at 41 Monkgate, York. All proceeds from the show go to support the charity York Mind.  http://www.upstagecentre.org.uk/

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