Writer: Robert Louis Stephenson
Adaptor: Phil Wilmott
Director: Gaynor La Rocca
Reviewer: John Roberts
Mate Productions have been running community programmes in Liverpool and Knowsley for many years and one of their biggest projects each year is their annual outdoor Shakespeare, however this year breaking from the norm, they have produced a fresh, lively and at times outright bonkers production of Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island.
It’s clear from the offset that Mate productions mean business, their steampunk-themed production is played upon a creative and well-designed wooden set, which provides a perfect playground for the cast to peddle their mischievous ways.
Director Gaynor La Rocca, has utilised the local area well within the production, deciding to allow the cast to have – in the majority – their natural accents for the rough and tumble pirate crew. A scouse Billy Bones for example, is a great reading of the role played with warmth and humour by Tom Large. But what of the main protagonist in this epic swashbuckling tale of friendship and deception? Clay Travis gives an energetic rendition of the young Jim Hawkins however, one perhaps would have liked him to play more naïve than childlike in his portrayal which at times could grate, likewise Francesco La Rocca’s portrayal of Long John Silver seems a little underwhelming and could have perhaps been boosted with a little more menace – I understand there is a fine line especially with a family show to find the right balance between menace and likability but this could have done with a bit more gravitas.
What La Rocca has managed with her ensemble is create a fast-paced production, at just over two hours including interval, the story never drags and the characters are always larger than life – you can’t help but laugh at the surreal nature of performer and composer Taran Harris’ anthropomorphic Black Dog, strong support also comes from a Wendi Peters-eqsue Lady Jaqueline Trelawney played with gusto by Cassie Richardson and excellent puppetry from Ryan Noon brings the delightfully designed Captain Flint to life. It is, however, a show-stealing performance from Kristian Lawrence as Benn Gunn that steals the show – in what can only be described as the cheesiest performance ever witnessed on stage.
Treasure Island is a massive success for everything Mate Productions stands for, bringing the arts to the local community and delivering professional standards by a team of committed and engaged amateur performers. While the company may only have two more outdoor shows of Treasure Island left, the production goes to Edinburgh for the Festival Fringe where no doubt many more people will enjoy their journey on the seven seas!
Reviewed on 7 July 2018 | Image: Contributed