This is fun. Lindsay Sharman’s musical audio drama, available as a podcast, is a tale of 18th-century female pirates that’s full humour and scandal. The first episode sets up plenty of plot and fantastic characters, including the titular Anne Bonny and Mary Read, with a strong sense of history viewed through modern eyes.
The songs by Laurence Owen are serviceable and add to the atmosphere. Each number is integrated well into the action and wonderfully performed. There’s variety, too, with ballads, of course, but also sea shanties and a gorgeous lullaby. The music creates a period feel that is belied by Sharman’s script, which fully embraces the women’s appeal in 2021.
It’s true that balladeers and the press had a field day with these real-life female pirates, whose story could “chill and astound”, But Sharman wants to do more than entertain. Anne, given a voice by the excellent Christina Bianco, is keen to comment on the myths surrounding her and stop the “nonsense” so many, including Bess the Ballad Singer (an excellent opening number from Carole Stennett) are keen to profit from.
Mary is more than a match for investigative journalist Nathaniel Mist – a role Karl Queensborough does well with, especially when it comes to the show’s earthy humour. Keen to add “spice”, Nathaniel could well prove just a pawn, manipulated by his boss Captain Barnet (John Henry Falle), whose character I hope we hear more from. Sharman has set up plenty of possibilities for the rest of the series.
There are four more episodes to come, released on Thursdays until the 27 May. We’ve still to meet Mary, performed by Sooz Kempner, and other stars on board for the project include Le Gateau Chocolat. Following Anne and Mary’s adventures has been of interest for centuries and Sharman’s look at the legends promises great things.