Euan Rose talks to Terry Grimley about his musical embroidery of a real-life pirate's adventures.
Have you ever heard the story about the woman pirate from Bromsgrove? Euan Rose hadn't either, until he was asked last year to write a show about a famous person from the town.
"Everybody writes about A E Houseman, but I went on the internet and and found this young girl called Charlotte Badger. She was born in 1776 and at the age of 17 she was sent down for seven years' transportation to Australia for housebreaking.
"It was the Napoleonic Wars at the time, so she was put in Worcester Prison for five years until they could find a ship. Then she was sent out on the Earl Cornwallis to New South Wales.
"She was put into a factory making rope and had a baby girl there. She managed to get moved to Hobart and was put on the
Venus, but the crew mutinied and they landed in New Zealand, where she had a few run-ins with the Maoris."
Here the story goes cold, but it is believed that Charlotte, who had hoped to make her way to America, may have eventually accepted a passage to Tonga.
There was more than enough here, though, to get Rose's imagination working. And perhaps historical accuracy isn't quite what's demanded when you read the description of Charlotte in a notice published under the headline "Wanted for Piracy" in the Sydney Gazette of July 1806: "very corpulent, full face, thick lips, with infant child." Not exactly the female equivalent of Johnny Depp, then.
The resulting show, Charlotte Badger, is a swashbuckling musical which has been developed in workshops over the last year and is getting its first full production this week at Bromsgrove's Artrix Arts Centre.
"It's merging every kind of theatre I've ever worked in," says Rose, who is best known for co-writing the hit Birmingham musical Wallop Mrs Cox with Laurie Hornsby.
"It's written in verse, but I hope no-one will notice that after the first couple of minutes. Well, I say verse - it has a metre to it."
This time the music is by Charles Townshend.
"He really has done a fantastic job with the music. It's a very unusual group of musicians he's put together, and we've got the best male chorus outside Wales.
"I've pulled in all the favours I can to put this on. Colin Judge, who designs the operas for the Conservatoire, has done the set, and we have a great fight director in Richard Evans."
Charlotte Badger travelled a long way from her origins in Bromsgrove, but Euan Rose's initial ambitions for the show he has named after her are a little more modest.
"I want it to travel from Bromsgrove into Birmingham," he says.
* Charlotte Badger is at The Artrix, Bromsgrove, until Sunday (Box office: 01527 577330). Euan Rose and cast members take part in a post-show discussion after Friday's performance.