Sometimes amidst all the shows dealing with deep and meaningful topics, you just want a blast of pure silliness. If you also require your daftness to be a bit more family friendly, you could so a lot worse than Max Norman’s charming nautical adventure, ‘A Pirate’s Life For Me’. This madcap hour sees hyperactive comedian Max Norman career around the stage in a typhoon of DIY props and deranged characters, with a broadside of corny gags.
‘A Pirate’s Life For Me’ quickly has the audience roped in as crew for Captain Max’s quest to find the treasure on a map he found in a box of breakfast cereal. Norman also hands out jobs like lookout, first mate, and (w)anchor man (there is also a healthy amount of smut for the parents in the room, sure to blow over the heads of the younger crew members like the gentlest ocean breeze). Out to stop the intrepid vessel is the evil Captain Birdseye, who frequently appears on a screen (usually when Norman is changing between characters) like a Star Trek villain, offering threats and satirical commentary on how the voyage is going so far. That Birdseye is Norman’s chin filmed upside down with a little eyepatch, pipe, and cotton wool beard stuck on is always funny, no matter how many times its used.
Besides the two captains, we also get to meet a wrathful Poseidon and a vaguely disturbing mermaid who drags another audience member up for a weird marriage ceremony. This is where the Mighty Boosh comparisons that have greeted the show really ring true, with Norman really tapping into that uncanny Old Gregg valley. We also get a literal storm in a teacup, Titanic gags aplenty, and an actual ‘Narrative Ark’ that arrives to help out when everything seems all at sea.
It’s all beautifully knockabout and ramshackle stuff, indicating the type of creativity that comes from being a kid who loved to play with the boxes rather than his presents themselves. Even if all the handmade props are starting to show the wear and tear of nearly three weeks use, there is some genuinely inventive repurposing of all manner of items for Norman’s lunatic intentions. There is also always the feeling that we’re getting close to a tipping point of things going wrong at any given moment, plus the unpredictability of children. Although in this particular show, there was only a very cute and chatty toddler who insisted on yelling ‘Goodbye!’ whenever Max nipped offstage to change.
A lovely coda provides some inessential but beautiful context to all this silliness, with Norman looking back to his childhood love of pirates and a pirate-themed birthday party he had as in the early 90s. Not that the show needed this, but this little Peter Pan paean to keeping at least within touching difference of your inner child rounds off the hour on a surprisingly poignant note.
‘A Pirate’s Life For Me’ runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Underbelly Cowgate – Belly Laugh at 13:00