Robinson Crusoe & the Pirates – January 2012

Robinson Crusoe & the Pirates – January 2012


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Brighouse Echo Review Halifax Courier Review

Cast List

Robinson Crusoe

Holly Robson


Emma Newsome


Ed Hoyle

Nutty Nick

John Murphy


Paul Tankard

Skull Duggery

Richard Walsh

Cross Bones

Sophie Tankard

Cut Throat

Tony Norcliffe

Davy Jones

Robert Davison


Vivienne Payne

Hocus Pocus

Ammar Hussain

Mumbo Jumbo

David Hoyle


Debbie Granger


Connor Tankard


The Pantomime takes its title and story from the novel by Daniel Defoe, published in 1719.

Daniel Defoe, in turn took some of the origins of his novel from the true life adventures of a sailor called Alexander Selkirk. Selkirk was stranded on the desert island of Mas-a-Tierra, (now renamed Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966) off Chile between 1704 and 1709, after quarrelling with his Captain. Upon returning home he became a celebrity, telling his story to anyone who would pay, including Defoe.

He may also have been influenced by the tale of Henry Pitman, a castaway surgeon to the Duke Of Monmouth who escaped from a Caribbean penal colony, and was subsequently shipwrecked. His story was published in London by J.Taylor of Paternoster Street. It was his son William who published Defoe’s seafaring novel .

Defoe is said to have named his hero Robinson Crusoe after spotting the name on a gravestone. The novel became very popular, and created a fashion for stories about shipwrecked sailors and desert islands.

Alexander Selkirk 1676-1721 was born in Scotland, and after returning from his deserted isle, joined the Royal Navy, and was buried at sea off the coast of Africa after he died of a fever.

Defoe was one of the founders of the English Novel. Born Daniel Foe in Cripplegare, London between 1659 and 1661, he added the aristocratic “De” to his name . Defoe lived through the Great Plague and The Great Fire of London as a child. He became a general merchant, and spent most of his life in debt.At one point his debts were believed to be around £17,000. He married Mary Tuffley, and they had eight children, of whom six survived.

He traded wine to Spain, and by 1695 he returned to England as Daniel Defoe, to work in tax collection at Tilbury, near to the shipyards, and lived in Chadwell St.Mary, Essex.

First publication in 1697 (a series of proposals for economic development) as well as several political treaties and pamphlets, one of which resulted in him being put upon the pillory for three days in 1703. He wrote a great many satires and political and religious essays until the publication of Robinson Crusoe in 1719.

It was published on April 25th 1719. Its full title was as long as those Victorian pantomime titles-

“The Life and strange surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years , all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the coast of America, near the mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque: Having been cast on shore by shipwreck, where-in all the men perished but himself. With an account of how he was at last as strangely delivered by Pyrates. Written by Himself.”

The novel was in today’s terms a “Best Seller”. By the end of the year it had run through four editions. Within years it had reached an audience as wide as any book ever written in English. It spawned a great many variations and adaptations, book versions, film versions, and of course pantomime versions.

“One day, about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man’s naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen on the sand”

Other novels by Defoe: “Captain Singleton” (1720), “Moll Flanders” (1722) and “Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress” (1724).

Daniel Defoe died on April 26th 1731 probably whilst hiding from his creditors. He was interred in Bunhill Fields, City Road, London, where a monument can be seen to this day.


The original pantomime plot took its basis from Defoe’s novel. The story in short is that Robinson Crusoe is shipwrecked on a desert island, has adventures involving the cannibals, meets up with Man Friday and is rescued.

Later authors added new characters to fit in with the genre. Mrs Crusoe, Polly Perkins, Will Atkins were added to the tale, as were pirates and even Davy Jones. Some versions have a love affair between Crusoe and a native Princess, and royalty in the form of King Neptune, Pirate Kings and Cannibal Kings and Queens have abounded in the tales transformation into pantomime. Animals have often featured too, with parrots, goats, apes and dogs making appearances over the years!

The Panto Plot:

The traditional plot of “Crusoe” would generally involve some sort of quest that our hero would have to go on- to locate buried treasure for example, or to undertake a voyage of discovery.

In some versions he has already met and fallen in love with the Principal Girl (often named Polly Perkins) at the port. She might be the daughter of an inn keeper, or a merchant, or sometimes the daughter of a sea captain.

In some versions she is the Captain’s daughter and meets Crusoe on board her father’s ship when he sets sail for the tropical isles. In some pantomime plots the villainous Will Atkins (or Blackbeard, possibly Blackheart) wants Polly Perkins for his bride, and sets out to steal both the map and the girl from our hero.

Whatever the reason, the one thing Crusoe can’t do is stick to the plot of Defoe’s book. It would make for a pretty dull pantomime if he spent most of it alone on his island before discovering Man Friday!

In the panto plot his Mother, Mrs Crusoe and his Brother Billy (as in “Silly Billy”) will join him, and most often Polly will too. Certainly if they are not on his ship, they will be on a following ship to allow them all to meet up on the Island.

During the voyage the villainy of Will Atkins, or the powers of the deep will result in the ship sinking to the bottom of the sea, and a speciality scene (often in U.V or “Black Light”) will take place, before Crusoe is washed ashore (seemingly alone) on the “deserted” Island.

He doesn’t spend much time alone in Act Two- very soon he will discover the footprints in the sand belonging to Man (or sometimes Girl) Friday, and he will be reunited with his Mother, Brother and Girlfriend.

During Act Two there will be a scene, often the camp of the war like tribe on the island, or a stockade, where Friday has been captured, and is about to be put to death. Robinson Crusoe to the rescue- and he and Friday will escape.

There will be a hunt for the buried treasure, and our hero will cross swords with villainous pirates, angry natives and encounter and thwart Will Atkins.

Crusoe, along with Friday and his family return to England with all the treasure, and the final scene will be the wedding of Crusoe & His bride back home.