Writer & Director: Leah Bell
This eagerly awaited tenth anniversary of the collaboration between The Empire and Leah Bell receives its usual excellent reception. One of the best ways to start a show is with a bang, and that is the way Treasure Island begins. The three pirates, Slick Slack Silver (Jason Jones), Shift Shark (Kas O Neil), Sneaky Snake (Dzed) and Captain Jack (Dave Mc Carthy) begin laying their dastardly plot. In order to obtain the hidden treasure they need to find the map which Benjamin Gunn (Gareth Arthurs) inherited, while sorting out his auntie Gertrude Gunn (Leah Bell) so she is not be nuisance … little do they know!
Their meeting with the girls of the town begins the first of many musical numbers all well-choreographed (Jason Jones), “everybody just having a good time” is what they sing and everybody is. The next routine is at the fairground where ‘les girls’ take on another character equally entertaining and introduces the strong man (Andy Tate).Many of the talented cast of twelve take various roles, such as mermaids and islanders; King Neptune (Jones), King Ko Ko ( Tate) father to princess Mona (Gabrielle Smith) and Peaches Peabody Pirate Queen (Bethan Amber) giving the opportunity for many locations all having a different setting and costumes, lots of variety to keep the interest going.
The audience do not have to wait long for the ‘treasure’ of the show to appear, auntie Gertie. Bell has the ability to connect directly with her audience in a very friendly way giving that intimate personal feeling that an audience loves. They are made to feel part of the show, physically as well, with the cast coming into the auditorium and involving them more than once.
There are lots of opportunities to join in the ‘Oh no he isn’t’ and ‘he’s behind you’, the community song and a wonderful walk down, all in fabulous gold, sparkling yellow, orange and ostrich feathers. Indeed from the very start the wonderful wardrobe shouts pantomime, a copious colourful collection of constantly changing costumes. All of this is greatly enhanced by the lighting, sound and settings (Ashley Bell). There is a very clever use of rigging and ship equipment at either side of the stage. It is easy to see there is a wealth of panto experience on stage.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson has been dramatized more than almost any other novel and made into numerous films. Written in 1881 and still going strong. It is known for its atmosphere, characters and action, Bells production delivers all of these and more. Pantomime is often the first and sometimes only experience children have of live theatre and its can make a lasting impression, Treasure Island will.
Runs until 31st December 2021