Ahoy! The Ballad of the Time Kraken is a Starkid-esque production with some rollicking songs, but its narrative and pacing issues hamper it.

Ahoy! is a meta-musical produced by Rocket Whip, a queer, female-led theatre company. The company aims to: “create accessible and fun theatre productions…focusing on small scale original musicals… outside of work hours to encourage participation from amateur actors.” Ahoy! draws cleverly on pantomime style and clown theatre, and the creative team are dedicated and passionate. After all, this Fringe show is a full-length original musical produced primarily during the team’s leisure time.

There is a lot to love about Ahoy!, it’s a familiar adventure plot in an absurd setting. The show is essentially a retelling of the Wizard of Oz, with a small-town girl fighting to return home and uncovering fraud, evil, and friendship along the way. The production’s strength is its ensemble; each character has a distinct identity, and they are entertaining in—crucially—different ways. A special mention goes to Babs the Parrot (basically the pantomime dame without the dame part), brilliantly played by Jake Smeeton. Unfortunately, all the performers have a common fault; they speak too quickly. I missed much of the brilliant dialogue, often hearing the punchline but not the set-up, or vice versa. The good news is that diction is an easy fix.

From a narrative perspective, there is unclarity for two main reasons. Firstly, the pacing is off. Most of the play (the first and much of the second act) focuses on finding the simplest route home (magical starfish), and in the last twenty minutes, the characters rush towards a different course of action. Secondly, the rules of this universe aren’t clear. The characters are in a fundamentally abstract setting (sailing across the seas of time on a pirate ship), and there are some attempts to establish a logic system (for example, the characters are there because they “fell out of time”), but this logic soon peters out. There is one scene, for example, where the characters find themselves saddled with items from their real-time lives, but this scene serves no purpose. Despite the promising start, I don’t understand the logic system at all by the end of the play. In fact, one character explicitly informs the audience what the Kraken symbolises, which shouldn’t be necessary. In fairness, Rocket Whip ties the plot up neatly at the end, but it feels a little forced. If Rocket Whip wants to push their work to the next level, I think they should stick with absurd settings/concepts (a time-travelling pirate ship is intriguing and playful), but they should balance this with a strong logic system from the onset. Hopefully, by embracing a weird and subversive plot along the way, the logic system (and the concept—in this case, time—that it represents) can be dismantled and challenged. There is a lot of potential for Rocket Whip as a theatre company.

If, like me, you’re a bit of a stickler for a well-developed narrative and logic (even in the absurd), Ahoy! may frustrate you at times. But if crazy ideas—like time travelling pirates—intrigue you, give this light-hearted musical a chance. With good music and clever comedy, this is a genuinely fun night at the theatre.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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