Writer: Robert Louis Stevenson, Stage adaptation by Bryony Lavery
Director: Polly Findlay
Music: Dan Jones
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
The National Theatre launched the ground breaking of idea of live broadcasts over five years ago, which have proved a wonderful opportunity for people across the globe to see a big stage production, live in their own town.
Buried treasure, parrots, maps, pirates and of course the dreaded “Black Spot”;Treasure Island is where it all began. Born in Edinburgh in 1850, writer Robert Louis Stevenson had these adventures serialized for a children’s magazine between 1881 and 1882 after first telling them to his stepson. The novel was first published in 1883.
This stage adaptation by Bryony Lavery is the National’s Christmas show, and as the only time some families go to the theatre, Director Polly Findlay wanted to give some something to excite the imagination. It is the first time she has directed a piece for children, and it shows. The first half is visually very active, largely brown, (full praise to the carpenters) grey, dark, deep, intense, atmospheric and moody, appealing to an adult – but a child?
The story is told through the eyes of Jim Hawkins, played here as a girl, Jemima (Patsy Ferron), who acts the part out to her finger tips, very expressively as an almost an androgynous figure; “Be you boy or girl?” – “That be my business.” As Dr Livesey (Helena Lymbery) says, “Girls need adventure too.”
Grandma Hawkins (Gillian Hanna) brings a lot of dry humour, a great character. One sailor, Grey (Tim Samuels) gave a very witty dry performance, but as with Grandma’s humour, quite adult. Ben Gunn (Joshua James) is an entertaining character, giving an impressive performance. The ideal ‘pantomime’ larger than life character, Long John Silver (Arthur Darvill), here effortlessly and subtly portrayed, is perhaps overshadowed by his parrot (Ben Thompson).
The star of the show however is Lizzie Clachan’s set. Revolving and extremely ingenious, it adapts into innumerable settings magnificently. Dark and menacing memories of Jamaica Inn spring to mind. The transformation into the ship received applause as it rose from the murky depths revealing cabins unmasked like the side of a dolls house removed, while the ceiling twinkles with starry constellations. More environment than involvement, more set than story, and while brilliant, it dominates and sometimes overshadows the cast and the story.
An extravagant display of set building ingenuity is brilliantly executed in this production. Sometimes a child finds the box more entertaining than the contents. Treasure Island is a great story on its own, which does not need to be overshadowed with effects.
Next showing: 18th February 2015