INTERVIEW: “Gender should not be a barrier to anything” Performer Charlotte Cooper on The Night Pirates

The Night Pirates is an adventure on the high seas, adapted from the much-loved book by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright. We chat to cast member Charlotte Cooper, who has performed in several children’s theatre productions, about family audiences, female pirates and more…

What can audiences expect from The Night Pirates?

Audiences can expect to be taken on a beautifully crafted adventure from a little boy’s bedroom to a mysterious island by way of singing, dancing and battling.

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Photo: Camilla Greenwell

The show is based on a best-selling children’s book by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright. With your experience of performing in book adaptations, why do you think they are so popular with family audiences? And how do you successfully translate a book from page to stage?

Audiences like to see something they already know is a safe bet. In times of austerity, people are less likely to take a financial risk on a piece of unknown theatre, there is comfort in the familiarity of a well-loved book. Children love to see characters they know come alive on stage.

I think successfully taking a book from page to stage is a huge task that the writer and director undertake, having the imagination to see past the parameters of the book and to build on the existing story. From an actor’s point of view, boundless energy helps!

We rarely see female pirates in stories or on the stage. Do you think there’s any significance to the pirates being girls?

The fact that it is noteworthy that these pirates are girls, proves we have a long way to go before gender equality is truly realised. I think it is superb that the pirates in this story are female. They are the sort of rolemodels I would have loved as a child- strong, fun, adventurous AND female! The significance should only be in that they are a reminder that gender should not be a barrier to anything.

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Photo: Camilla Greenwell

You’ve performed in the West End and around the world with a number of productions for family audiences – what is it about children’s theatre that you enjoy?

With shows for younger audiences, you know immediately by their reaction if something has or hasn’t worked. They become restless if not fully entertained and need to be given plenty of opportunities to interact. It is a high energy medium and you have to be thinking constantly, it’s actually akin to comedy in that way.

Younger audiences notice everything, it’s impossible to trick them or divert them: if something funny happens on stage they will have noticed and you can’t gloss over the moment in the way you could with an adult audience. (I was once in a show where another character and I collided and he fell over. It was incredibly funny as he fell to the floor and into a spotlight centre stage – the whole audience saw it so I had to acknowledge it had happened which gave them permission to laugh and helped to explain my obvious guffaws!)

Children’s theatre and story telling are increasingly important. With cuts to arts funding, and drama no longer being a compulsory part of the curriculum, it is important that children are given opportunities to see stories come alive on stage and I am proud to be a part of that.

Also, the earlier finishes mean I can be in bed with a cup of tea in time for The Archers!

What was your experience of theatre growing up?

I grew up in the 80s/90s and children’s theatre was relatively scarce, it certainly didn’t exist in the way it does now. I saw Postman Pat and Sooty and only remember not being enamoured by the large character costumes. The first West-End show I saw was Joseph in 1993 with Jason Donovan  and I was hooked! I wanted to be the narrator (strong female role model!) and used to re-enact the whole show making my brother be the children’s choir!

The Night Pirates is recommended for any budding young pirates up to 6 years old. The show is at Rose Theatre Kingston until 16th September. For more information and to book tickets click here.

Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more information and to help give children’s theatre the voice it deserves, please visit our Patreon page.

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