AMA Theatre Co.
Past & Future Unites Across Time
It is often said that history repeats itself. Is this because human nature soon forgets the lessons learnt from a bygone age? Or do memories become blurred over time, and it is all too easy to twist historical facts to fit a modern viewpoint? Is it perhaps that life’s path does repeat itself but it's our perception that changes each time a generation walks that path? If we look back in history, what do we see? We see facts and dates that are hard to dispute. When the Magna Carta was signed on 15th June 1215 the record of the date and the signature on the document are undisputable because records exist. But what about hearsay? History is full of conclusions made up from the viewpoint of individuals, but are they historically accurate?
What about the future? We can say that on a date in the future a particular situation will happen, the date of an anniversary or some planned event. But other statements about what will happen in the future are purely conjecture and rely on a viewpoint based on belief. We could say that history and the future are remarkably similar in their construction.
An interesting concept might be, if a period from the past overlapped with a period of today. What anomalies might that throw up? Would those past events affect future events? Or would today’s world be reminded that similar situations in life reoccur over and over and that nothing really changes in human activity? If that were the case, could we learn and take on board those lessons from the past and make them more ingrained in the human psyche?
The Buccaneers, rather than being a tale of pirates, is more a tale of humanity, relationships with others and the dark undertones of society present in the past and today. 300 years ago, life was not much different to now, yet it was different. There was no technology back then like we are familiar with today, but human society and human traits were just as common then as they are now.
Take a young woman from a reasonably well-off family. You might suppose her life would be reasonably comfortable. Certainly, today such a woman, apart from the usual daily struggles, could live reasonably comfortably. But imagine if that woman faced constant threats and her freedoms were stifled. One could easily imagine a modern regime where women’s rights were restricted. Of course, there were laws and acts of parliaments, but just because laws existed, didn’t necessarily mean they were always upheld. Women were considered inferior to men and if they found themselves in the wrong company, whether that be the company of a villain or magistrate, she could find herself extremely vulnerable. Our young woman was abused, assaulted, and raped. If she'd tried to make a stand for fairness, she was branded a whore, a troublemaker and probably the most dreadful insult, by the standards of the day, was that she was not a respectable woman. This made it more accepted that any abuse she suffered was probably her own fault, “Afterall, she is just a common tart!” Interestingly, how many women today who stand up for themselves are ridiculed and slandered? Not just women, but any individual that makes a stand, runs the high risk of having their personality destroyed so as to halt their dissent.
Let us imagine our young woman morally punched and abused by society. She wants to fight back and will take any advantage or strategy she can, to improve her standing. Our young lady was strong and cunning (She had to be!) and she took to dressing and pretending to be a man. This way she could go to places a young woman should certainly not go, like the local pub! In these situations, she could discuss her views as a man and, although not always agreed with, her words would be taken more seriously that if she were seen as a woman. Today women are still treated with prejudice because of their gender, especially in some working environments.
It wasn't just the lives of women that were harsh and open to abuse, but many honest and genuine men also fell victim to abuse, especially if they were poor! They would be looked upon as undeserving and because they were poor, they might be considered lazy or drunkards. They were deemed worthless and to abuse someone considered worthless because of their own laziness was considered acceptable. But what if all these people came together to form, say a type of union? They could find solace amongst each other, and they could work together to better their situation. Our young lady became part of such a group with similar experience of abuse and disrespect, and together they formed a strong partnership. The opportunity our group had, was they were familiar with the sea and could make money carrying cargo on small boats. A bit like a modern-day courier service.
So, here we have a group of people trying to make an honest living, even though they were not highly regarded in society. Nevertheless, they created a more comfortable life albeit a modest one, for themselves.
1701 The War of the Spanish Succession breaks out and the British government enlists all seafaring men to assist in the war effort and to back up the navy. The government does not intend to pay these people, but instead grants them the privilege of keeping anything they can salvage from a destroyed Spanish ship. Such groups will be known as privateers. Our merry band of merchant seamen take up this offer, as during times of war cargo shipments become rarer due to the risk of loss at sea, so the governments offer is welcomed as it will help them survive. They also gain a modicum of respect as they are “fighting for their country.”
Once the war is over, however, and peace is declared with Spain, our merry group are no longer allowed to destroy Spanish ships and keep what they can find. This practice is now outlawed! This might be a fair point as Britain is no longer at war, but what was done to assist those groups that “fought for their country?” Nothing! They were instantly condemned as criminals and vermin. Overnight they changed from being heroic privateers to outlawed pirates.
It must be said that there were those that took advantage of the situation, just like today. Criminal types that had thrived before the war in criminal activity took advantage of the situation as it made them more powerful due to the fear instilled in the populous by the very name, “pirate!” But equally there were those whose difficult life got even harder. Either fortunately or unfortunately, however you like to look at it, these “pirates did not last very long and were soon "brought to justice" and executed.
So, our young woman is abused, raped, and generally regarded as unsavoury for merely standing up for herself. She followed the path of life open to her where she felt safer and had a means to survive, only for the establishment to finally destroy her completely.
We may recognise some of these situations in our modern life and if we do, do we ask what can we do about it? Or do we just shut things out and hope situations won’t affect us? If we can draw parallels with life three hundred years ago to that of our modern society, but we are unsure what we can do, perhaps we can take notes of those who struggled before us. Perhaps those that lived so long ago can actually reach out across the borders of time and help us. If you are moved by the plight of our young woman and the others like her and you are fascinated at the idea of her and her friends reaching across time to us, then you will be stirred by the tale of Anne Bonny and her trusted companions who make up The Buccaneers.
Grab a ticket here Questors Ealing Theatre - We'd love to see you on either 5th or 6th April.