The pirate ship has just sailed out onto the waters of Lake Ontario when a siren begins to sing a sea shanty about shipwrecks, flooding and loss. Four athletic non-pirates sprint from stern to aft and try to communicate, but their mouths are full of water that spews and spills across the deck. That effort having failed, except visually and metaphorically, they imitate the seagulls flocking nearby before launching into heated competitions, roleplay and even pole-dancing. Flooded is well underway.
Having suffered through many booze cruises, I board the pirate ship with more than a touch of trepidation. Foolish landlubber: the mix of theatre, dance and sailing the open seas is intoxicating in a different manner. And occasionally, when the theatrics have become too intense or esoteric, the cast pauses, stares out over the waves, and invites us to enjoy the scenery and the breeze in our hair.
Director/siren Ara Glenn-Johanson (Blue Remembered Hills) has encouraged the audience to enjoy the cruise and scenery, she claims attention is "not mandatory." The cast however has other ideas and, very committed to their roles, they demand attention revelling in the laughter and their sexual allure. The games and battles may be abstract, but we have been promised "pelvic ridiculousness" and there is a lot of thrusting and gyrating, turning posteriors into booty treasure.
Melanie Leon delivers a passionate monologue in what appears to be the native tongue of the Oompa Loompas before strutting and slithering, inciting the others. Hayden Finkelshtain (Blue Remembered Hills) uses his expressive eyes and lithe body to express vulnerability and disturbing aggression. He also wins the artistic equivalent of a booze cruise wet t-shirt contest. With a flowing mane of ginger hair whipping the air, Nicole Wilson (Blue Remembered Hills, The Importance of Being Earnest) teases, taunts, and conjures a mermaid's grace. A message in a bottle finds it's way to Duncan Rowe who reads in a voice as rich and handsome as his countenance and treasure trail, before using it to drive Finkelshtain into a chest-baring battle complete with snapping rat tails.
If there is a narrative - and there seems to be as some of the timing (allowing for the unpredictability of the landlubbers in close proximity) is split second and the rhythms of fists and feet pounding the deckboards and flesh are tightly synchronized - it is secondary to the effect of the set pieces. I took away an allegory that surviving the shipwreck of heartbreak can be achieved through dance, cuddle puddles and stripping to one's underwear to bask in the wonder of the sunshine. Other passengers, particularly the ones who were wise enough to pack alcoholic beverages, will have their own interpretations.
This particular voyage was blessed with glorious weather and just setting sail in the remarkable pirate ship provided by Pirate Life (piratelife.ca) was already a Disney-esque adventure (they really should consider adding more adult theatre to their repertoire and it would be an ideal venue for a small event). However when the cast had taken their bows, the siren had reprised, and the dance music started up, for all the jokes about sailors and "Avast Matey" and sea legs and "Ever been to sea, Billy?" running through my head, there were images and ideas also swirling and I missed the theatrical artifice. And it dawns on me how disconnected from the water we are as a city (that barrier of hideous condos), how tragic it is that the island is flooded, and that what a shame it is that serious theatre/performance art isn't combined with seafaring more often. And that I should have smuggled a tot or two of rum aboard.