REVIEW: Treasure Island adapted by Bryony Lavery
For me, eclipsing many aspects of this production, was the superb set, designed by Dee Harvey, especially when depicting the Hispaniola with sails unfurled and rigging creaking in the elements. The central structure and changing tabs also depicted other locations, its transformations achieved with consummate ease and without disruption to the action.
Clever and interesting lighting and sound effects (Jonathan Richardson & Ryan Norcott), coupled with atmospheric music, added to the seafaring atmosphere of piratical adventure. A large number of excellent props (Mary Barret & Jenny Wiles) were used throughout. Costumes (Gill Jenks) were many and varied, with a wonderful steampunk style threading its way through Silver’s leg, a pirate’s goggles and another’s head-gear. I would have liked to have seen the cut-throats looking a little dirtier; they appeared a generally well-groomed bunch for desperate brigands. This was not pantomime or a serious drama – or was it? A tricky path to tread.
The large cast made maximum use of the set, leaping, climbing, clambering and crawling in, on, around and under, with imagination, creativity and skill. Long John Silver (Anthony Lusted) steered the action with confidence and menace, and Simon Hookey as Bill Bones was a convincingly old pirate with a tortured mind. Our hero was, of course, Jim Hawkins, played in a very promising debut by Eve Brownbill. Matt Davis gave a stand-out performance as her ally, Benn Gunn, bringing pathos, humour and physical agility to the role. Vocally, the cast managed some very gravelly, swashbuckling voices which must have been a challenge to maintain throughout the production’s run. At the other end of the vocal spectrum, Bianca Eichler (Israel Hands) sang beautifully and Lucky Micky’s (Mike Woodhams) rich baritone within the sea shanties added to the nautical feel of the piece.
The final performance of the run of Treasure Island was dedicated to the late Mike Poole, an accomplished actor, Director and friend of the Stables Theatre. Mike was to have directed the production but withdrew due to his health. The mantle was picked up by Barbara Ward and Niall Whitehead who saw the production through to the end of a successful run, of which Mike would have been proud. Treasure Island was testament to how much can be achieved in sad and difficult circumstances with team work, talent and determination; the show must go on – and it did.