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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Treasure Island | A Review

A National Theatre, London Production

Adapted by Bryony Lavery


Robert Lewis Stevenson's novel is brought to life in this epic adaptation. An adventurous, fun and cleverly crafted production for families, young and old. Lizzy Clachan's set design envelopes you the minute you enter the auditorium; a sea-sound scape plays and in front is a wooden floor boarded stage surrounded with driftwood curved arcs that almost resemble bones or the carcass of a ship. The stage is built on a rotation and with the use of raised platforms and wooden structures the audience is transported from poor Jim Hawkin's family Inn, to the expansive deck of the Hispanola ship and its intricate dollhouse-like infrastructure, the mud-covered island and even the interwoven tunnels beneath the island that the notably weird and wonderful Ben Gunn (Joshua James) resides. 

The monotone colours and woody, mossy textures used for the setting and props: the pulsating muslin and moss covered latexy mud of the Island and the driftwood and timber of the ship created a stunning backdrop for the gripping fast-paced action and perfected story narration the cast offered to the audience. A clever use of hanging bulbs and LED rope above the stalls made for an (almost) interactive light show as Jim Hawkins learnt how to navigate the ship using the stars peering up at the starry night sky. To create the infamous storm, strobe lighting was used with great effect and actors swinging from the ropes of the ship emphasised the windy lashings of the stormy seas.

The story is told by a brilliantly sparky Jim Hawkins, played superbly by Patsy Ferran: “Be you boy or be you girl?” “That be my business.” Jim who is poor and orphaned finds a treasure map and sets sail with a motley crew to find where it is buried! Ferran's performance was captivating through-out! The supporting cast or 'crew' held their individual characters and quirks- I particular liked the addition of 'Grey' a crew member; who was"Grey by name, grey by nature". Long John Silver (Arthur Darvill) played the character has plainly as is written although I felt his characterization was lacking. He needed something to set him apart: a tic, an overly familiar charm or an even bigger limp. To my disappointment the wooden leg was not a stump or stick but a fully formed (very majestic) wooden foot. Perhaps due to health and safety regulations, strapping an actors leg up for months on end had to be compromised but at times his limp was missing and he showed too much ease walking down a ladder to the mud-ridden tunnels of the Island.

This production is a brilliant adaptation with great writing, brilliant design and some stand-out performances. Although a wordy play the action was smoothly linked together with accapella 'piratey' songs with harmonies that gave me goosebumps! The combat and 'swash-buckling' was very apt and added to the drama and fast-paced action. There was great moments of slap-stick comedy made even more special with the use of magic and illusions. Captain Flint, the parrot was a highlight! In a burst of blue and green feathers he made swift exits and entrances around the auditorium. With his little comedic head nods and wing flutters he created great presence on the stage even when perched on the shoulder of Long John Silver.

Its a shame that it's run finishes this week (April 8th) but if it sails back into our theatres into the near future I'd thoroughly recommend it!

Treasure Island directed by Polly Findlay at the National Theatre, London.

Reviewed by Just You and B.