Ahoy: Ballad of the Time Kraken

Liv Burton
Rocket Whip
Salford Arts Theatre, Salford

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Ahoy: Ballad of the Time Kraken
Ahoy: Ballad of the Time Kraken
Ahoy: Ballad of the Time Kraken

Identifying the target audience is the first challenge arising from Rocket Whip’s Ahoy: Ballad of the Time Kraken. The opening sequence—Jake Smeeton operating the puppet Babs the Parrot and interacting with the audience in a call-and-response manner—suggests a pantomime for youngsters, but this is one of a number of ideas which is not realised.

New Blood (Isabel Nicholson) represents the audience as a newcomer to a very weird environment. She awakens, without memory, upon a pirate ship under the command of Captain Longsocks (Emmy Khan and, again, a panto-type name). The ship is sailing on the Sea of Time (or possibly of Literature or Theme) and the crew is made up of people, like New Blood, pulled from different time periods and unable to return until they confront their reason for leaving.

For reasons which are unclear, a Time Kraken (Ewan Sowerby) threatens the ship, as do rival pirates, and matters are made more complex by unusual items of treasure such as a magical starfish which grants wishes. To say the story is crowded is an understatement, which may account for few of the plot ideas being explored in detail.

Rocket Whip have not made things easy for themselves by making Ahoy: Ballad of the Time Kraken a musical, which is a particularly demanding genre especially for a fringe company. The number of songs is limited—a couple are no more than a single line repeated ("Time is a notion") while others are simply dialogue put to music rather than lyrics. In one of a number of knowing winks to the audience, a character refers to the songs as expositional.

Liv Burton’s script is more a collection of ideas rather than a cohesive story. The ship sailing on a supernatural sea of time (or literature or theme—concepts are put forward but never developed) has no impact upon the plot, it might as well be travelling on conventional tides. Likewise, the characters being pulled from different time periods does not contribute to the defeat of the Kraken, they could just as well have come from earthly ports. The motivation of the Kraken is never explained, in the manner of Captain Hook’s nemesis Tick-Tock, it simply serves as a convenient menace. The story settles down into a basic cartoon ‘caper’ with rival pirate crews in conflict, which does not make good use of the imaginative time travel concept.

Author Liv Burton co-directs with Emily Millington and allows a self-indulgent production. There is the sense of including ideas on the off-chance they will get a laugh rather than because they contribute to the plot. Well-known pieces of music—themes from Benny Hill and The Pink Panther—continue the larger-than-life cartoonish approach. There is a sense of having things both ways—Isabel Nicholson gives a dry, understated performance and knowingly points out plot inconsistencies, while other members of the cast create far more eccentric personalities.

Ahoy: Ballad of the Time Kraken would benefit from a more disciplined approach to clarify and make better use of the Sea of Time concept and trim back some of the self-indulgent ‘caper’ activities.

Reviewer: David Cunningham

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