Phil Saint has hung up his cutlass, spliced his last mainbrace and taken a desk job that would have been the envy of his real-life, 17th Century buccaneering predecessors, for whom early retirement usually meant being strung up from a yardarm or copping a musket ball between the eyes.
After 16 years the mild-mannered, soft-spoken Geordie has forsaken his alter ego, Sir Henry Morgan, master of the unceremonious at Magaluf’s raucous Pirates Adventure extravaganza, to become the show’s marketing manager. He’ll miss the fun, he admits, but relish a life of normal office hours, to spend more time with his wife, Belinda, a former tour rep, and their eight-year-old daughter, Lily, and watch his beloved Newcastle United on satellite TV. “There’s a massive buzz about being on stage before a live audience,” explains Phil, aged 43. “But there’s a time to call a halt and for me this is it.”
The show, now in its 24th season, will, of course, go on, with his long-time, fellow cast member Freddie Mason taking the helm as the pirate king and sailing the show´s legendary galleon, the Hispaniola, onwards to further mayhem and box-office success. “I wish him luck and I promise I’ll be his worst critic,” says Phil, with an impish smile. “Amazingly, in the 16 years I’ve worked with the show I have never seen a performance – I’ve been too busy being in it. So that’ll make a nice change.”
As with all good adventure yarns, Phil stumbled on the treasure trove of a new life almost by accident. In 1991 he was made redundant from his humdrum job as a transport manager in Middlesbrough and vowed to sail the seven seas – or at least take a plane over them – in search of fun and fortune. He recalls, “I’d never been to Mallorca, so I just bought a one-way plane ticket and came over. And the only place I’d ever heard of on the island was Magaluf, so I took a taxi there to have a look.
“Within a couple of days I found a job in a bar and one of the regulars was Pirate’s show director, who took a shine to me and said, ‘How would you like to be our new Sir Henry Morgan?’ “I agreed, mainly because it meant I could have one night a week off. ”Phil, the accidental pirate, epitomises the show’s fairytale origins. It was the brainchild of entrepreneur Jacques Sasson, who still plays a hands-on role in its running. And it all began as a kiddies’ story he dreamed up to coax his daughter Cathy to sleep when she was a toddler. So compelling was the swashbuckling joust between Morgan – a real-life privateer, who terrorised the Spanish Main until his death in a Jamaican earthquake in 1692 – and the loathsome French pirate, Lafitte, that Sasson was urged to transform it into a cabaret at his hotel, the Tropicana Gardens, before moving the action to a purpose-built theatre at the back of Magaluf.
Today it is one of Mallorca’s most enduring attractions, playing twice nightly – there’s an early-evening family show and a raunchier, Uncut performance for over-18s later in the evening – to audiences of up to 800 and featuring some of the world’s foremost acrobats and gymnasts. “Many have been Olympic champions,” Phil notes. “And this summer, at the Beijing Games, we’ll be talent-spotting for new cast members for next season.”
Part of Pirates’ remit has also become legend: A gala charity night, with guest appearances by an array of British showbiz stars, all in aid of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, in London.In four years the show has raised nearly half-a-million euros for its cause and Great Ormond Street is an apt recipient of Pirates’ largesse. In 1929 the celebrated author J.M. Barrie donated all future royalties from his story of Peter Pan – and the notoriously bungling buccaneer, Captain Hook – to the hospital, so the doctors, nurses and staff there are no strangers to living off the proceeds of fictional villany.“We’re very proud of our connection with Great Ormond Street and our contributions to its well-being,” says Phil. “And it gives us a chance to showcase the fun, not to say spectacular thrills and spills to a wider audience.”
With prices from €56 for an adult and €27.50 for a child, Pirate’s Adventure is hardly a cheap night out for an average holidaying family, but Phil insists the three-hour romp delivers excellent value for money.
So, too, he hopes will a hospitality spin-off which opens soon – a Pirates’ bar and grill, at Punta Balena, overlooking Magaluf beach. This is styled on the Pirates theme and we hope it will work well, because we believe the restaurant is a natural extension to the Pirate Adventure show,” says Phil. Meanwhile the affable and ex-swashbuckler is concentrating his attention on ideas to spread the Pirates message farther afield in his new role as marketing man.“It’s a fantastic challenge,” insists Phil. “And I’m really relishing it, just like I did when I first put on the Captain Morgan costume 16 years ago.”