Avast behind, me hearty! Yes, I know I have, thanks
A pirate? What with these knees? I should cocoa.
Needless to say I have accepted the part of Black-eyed Bess, the pirate, in the 2011 pantomime Robinson Crusoe and the Pirate’s Curse. After all, many successful buccaneers have survived worse medical predicaments.
Long John Silver, for example, managed to get about with more substantial leg problems than osteo-arthritis in the left knee even though Robert Louis Stevenson gave scant detail regarding how LJS negotiated those steep on-board stairways.
In fact Bess is nothing more than a sidekick. My husband is playing the main part of gruesome pirate Captain Jack Spanner (who said ‘who’s playing the rest of him?’). I am simply an underling but only, you understand, for the purposes of thespian cavorting.
Black-eyed Bess is not a role I was born to so I am hoping to pick up a few tips by watching Keira Knightley who was, of course, sidekick Elizabeth Swann to Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. (Any similarity between the name of the main antagonist in our pantomime and the dastardly Jack of Pirates of the Caribbean fame is purely coincidental... because we changed it a bit).
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My husband says he is also hoping to get some motivation from watching Keira Knightley. Yes, well.
My dialogue for this literary masterwork mainly comprises the well-know pirate expletive: “Ooo arr, ooo arr, oo arr.”
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There’s the occasional joke: What’s a pirate’s favourite fish dish? Pieces of skate.
As line-learning goes, it is not the most onerous task.
But, I hear you ask, am I am going to have a wooden leg, a hook for a hand, a patch over one eye, a parrot and a cutlass?
I’m thinking maybe an eye patch.
We method actresses need an occasional costume statement to help us meld into the part.
Why did the pirate go to the Apple store? To buy an iPatch.
What happened when Redbeard the pirate fell into the deep blue sea? He got marooned.
Ooo Arr! Thar be a couple of good ‘uns, me hearties.
“Are you going to let your beard grow, shipmate?” asked Captain Jack, having spotted me plucking a rogue hair and its equally roguish companion from my chin.
“Are you going to let your hair grow, captain?” I retorted, having spotted this was also going to be quite a challenge in places.
“Ye’ll be walking the plank for gross insubordination, scurvy knave” growled the Captain.
“Whereabouts?” I inquired sweetly.
“There be some scaffolding up round the Oasis boutique in town,” he warned.
As you can tell, we’re being careful not to let it tip over into our private lives. Why do seagulls fly over the sea? Because if they flew over the bay they’d be bagels.
But before we can fully commit to a life of piracy on the high seas, as we pursue Robinson Crusoe’s buried treasure, there is the small matter of our northern drama.
You may recall that in this classic 60s play we are portraying a working class couple from Bolton (in the north) with four children. So hard.
I was late into work last week because I stayed at home to listen to Boltonian comedian Paddy McGuinness mangle his vowels on BBC Breakfast. Note to self: book rhymes with spook.
One of the things we are required to do in order to suspend our audience’s disbelief is to eat our supper on stage, the main component of which is herring, freshly caught off the Suffolk coast by pirates. Ooo arr, cor blast.
Now we know about herrings in these parts. Surely anyone brought up in Suffolk or Norfolk will have encountered a bloater; a delicacy halfway between a herring and a kipper. Lightly smoked, it is the ambrosia of the East Anglian coast.
I seem to recall there used to be an interbloater service in a couple of our most popular family seaside resorts.
Similar to the service that delivers flowers to your door, you could send your loved ones a fish through the post.
Yes, bloaters are the food of the gods.
They are, however, well bony.
In my experience, however well a herring is filleted it still has bones. I’m guessing it has at least as many as the human body only on a smaller scale.
In fact my extensive research (looked it up on Google) reveals that the adult human has 206 bones while the herring has 1,000. I’m not sure that’s true but it’s the only answer I could find.
The oracle that is Delia Smith (www.deliaonline.com) tells you how to get rid of them but I have yet to eat a bone-free herring. As a result I am boning up (pun intended) on the Heimlich Manoeuvre which might save someone’s life.
The other problem with eating on stage is that you will, inevitably, have a mouthful of food just when you have to deliver a most important line.
Now, if it was “Ooo arr, ooo arr, ooo arr, I don’t think it would be too much of a trouble but when you have to speak unaccustomed northern as in: “Ee, lass, you do look bonny” you could accidentally fire off a flight of herring bones across the table and nail someone to the drop-leaf.
• If you know any pirate jokes that might enhance my performance as Black-eyed Bess, please write or email. The best original, family-friendly funny gets two complimentary tickets.