The King is Dead, long live the King.
2016, you’ve been a tough year. Already we’ve said farewell to too many wonderful people, and now we must bid adieu to Jon English.
“Get back in the barrel!” My brother Cameron and I would scream in delight as we got to the best bit of our favourite film that we were watching for the hundredth time. No, it was not a Disney cartoon or a Pixar animation. It was an operetta, a live performance of “The Pirates of Penzance” in fact. From the age of 4 we watched it so many times we wore out not one, but two VHS tapes. We loved them all, beautiful Mabel, dashing Frederick, manipulative Ruth but our favourite character, was the Pirate King.
Jon English stole every scene in the best way, with the charisma and comedy of a real Pirate King in charge of a band of ineffectual pirates with hearts of gold. He was the coolest person we’d ever seen: swinging across the stage of a rope, waging war with the conductor, using his sword as a microphone and tripping over an invisible step on the stage.
I was not alive for much of Jon English’s career. But I know that he was totally committed to every performance I ever had the privilege of seeing him in. That ability to completely immerse himself in a role as tired an absurd as Gilbert and Sullivan and bring it to life, inspired so many: including a little boy and a little girl who danced around their living room declaring vehemently “No, it’s MY turn to be the Pirate King!” (For the record Cameron made a excellent Mabel)
Thank you Jon English, for the laughs, for the music and most of all, for the joy.
Without your inspiration the world may never have been blessed with these two insufferable hams hogging stages every school holidays 😜