Review: Silent Canonfire

TOBY JONES sees real potential in this over complicated but unpretentious production.

ADC theatre Larkum Studio pirate unpretentious Will Seaward

Wednesday 10th – Saturday 13th, 8.00, Larkum Theatre, ADC. £4-6.

Directed by Will Seaward.

We don’t have a lot of unpretentious theatre in Cambridge, so I always do my best to encourage it when it crops up. But, watching this piece of unpretentious swashbuckling was like watching a baby learn to walk; you know it had loads of potential but kept falling flat on its face.

The show is a silent pirate adventure, underwritten by excellent ‘piratey’ music and told through mime and placards. Where it was good, it was very good, where it was bad, it was totally incomprehensible.

The ‘good bits’ were the bits where it was absolutely crystal clear what the actors were trying to get across, the Admiral with a sexual obsession with gold coins, the pirate who mouths to everyone he meets ‘I’ve got a fucking feather in my hat,’ the drippy couple that can’t keep their eyes of each other and the captain who is permanently paranoid about the secrecy of his buried treasure are all played with moments of real excellence and comic genius. When the exaggerated facial expressions, eye rolling, imaginative direction and witty placards came together it was brilliant. The problem was that this just didn’t happen as often as it should.

There were long periods, particularly those with lots of actors on stage, where the precision and clarity that was achieved in the better moments of the play were forgotten. As soon as the mime became unclear and confusing the audience were lost. There were moments where the tiny stage at the Larkum was crammed with actors all trying to show different things but all being lost in the confusion. When things were kept simple, it worked, when things got complicated, things broke down. What is more, most of the chorus couldn’t mime for shit, so they just confounded all the good work the leads had done. What could have been a showcase of the directors, clearly talented imagination, became a shambolic production with flashes of genius.

If this production was better rehearsed, made simpler and clearer it would be absolutely fantastic. It seems that Will Seawood underestimated the time and care that is needed to make a show like this really work. I’m hopeful that in his next venture, we will see what he is really capable of.