Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Pirates of The Carabina – Flown

Jade Dunbar, Barnz Munn and Shaena Brandel
Pirates of The Carabina
The Quays Theatre, The Lowry, Salford
24 November 2017 to 26 November 2017


As the name suggests Pirates of The Carabina like to give the impression that they are not the real thing – that there is something shambolic about the troupe. This aspect of Flown is so successful that, at times, the show looks like a combination of a circus act and The Play That Goes Wrong. Performers plummet to the floor, ladders crash down and an acrobat in mid-flight collides with a lighting rig while another loses his pants. The cast are dressed in clothes that have seen better days and the stage set looks like most of the props have been lifted from a rubbish tip.

The concept of Flown is that the Pirates are something of a motley crew that are badly under-rehearsed as becomes clear in the opening where the stage manager gives them notes on their performance . There is certainly a casual ‘anything goes’ approach about Flown. As the audience enters the troupe are on stage warming up – the sound check comprises the word ‘checking’ on a loop and a technician checks the lights by walking on a beam high above the stage. Some of the most stunning sequences border on the surreal with ordinary household objects – ironing boards and lamps- acting as a means of making the acrobatics even more challenging.

The stunts alternate with the cast delivering autobiographical anecdotes. These serve a variety of purposes and give the troupe the chance to let the audience in on trade secrets. After an acrobat describes a fall she suffered you can’t help but notice how members of the troupe act as counterweights while their colleagues are in the air so as to soften any possible fall.

Alternating between stunts and monologues helps to lessen the tension. Yet, as one of the cast remarks, she dislikes intermissions as they break the mood of a show and the same can be said of the anecdotes. The most successful are the routines that combine acrobatics and storytelling – a tightrope walker who chats merrily away while walking, sitting and lying on the rope.

There is a sense of Pirates of The Carabina trying to achieve too much; that the live music, monologues and mixture of fake accidents and real acrobatics makes Flown feels like a collection of pieces rather than a seamless complete product. Having opened the show with a concept of a struggling troupe it seems strange that they do not aim for a conclusion that gives an idea whether the Company feel they have proved their worth.

Having said that it is hard to imagine a better conclusion that the present one in which the acrobats, and finally the drum kit, take off and go flying over the heads of the audience. Not bad for a ‘ramshackle’ troupe.

Reviewer: David Cunningham