by Robert Louis Stevenson adapted by Chris Bond.
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 17 August 2013.
Mon-Thu 3pm, Fri, Sat 6pm Mat Thu 11am Sat 2pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 August.
High summer on the high seas in Hornchurch.
This summer show is recommended by the Queen’s as suitable for 8+. Sensibly; this isn’t simply a fun piece, as some parents discovered on Saturday afternoon.
For all its qualities, it seems uncertain who it is for. An opening entry of singing pirates suggests good fun with skull-and-crossbones-duggery, but the early scenes at the Admiral Benbow inn are dark in content and staging.
The inn floor smoothly becomes part of the Hispaniola as Chris Bond’s new adaptation economically weighs anchor to find Captain Flint’s buried treasure, and Bob Carlton’s production allows the strongest performance, James Earl Adair’s Long John Silver, to appear a good guy with the audience, as to young Jim Hawkins.
Revealed as a pirate, Silver still matches ruthlessness with a generous spirit; it’s the female of the species, Anne Bonney and Mary Read, imported from history, who seem most bloodthirsty. But Bond has another point to make.
Respectable society is present in the upper-class twittery of Sam Pay’s comic Squire, giving secrets away without realising, and the stern command of Sean Needham’s Dr Livesey, extracting unpaid bar dues from Billy Bones then pocketing double his fee and warning Jim to be sure he can pay next time his mother’s ill.
Treasure Island as a warning to the young against privatised health-care? The angle’s expanded into a general denunciation. Poor men stealing are pirates; rich men stealing are respectable and can legitimise their theft. The adaptation ends with Jim seriously considering Silver’s offer of joining his gang, while a large pirate flag’s triumphantly waved behind.
The island scenes are most seriously clipped, in part helping avoid the good/bad contrast of Stevenson’s novel. Earlier in this act it’s as if someone lost their dramatic nerve, remembered there were children aboard, so started inserting a pantomime element. Not to the point of interaction, but verbal comic routines, references to the audience and an initially jokey appearance by Ben Gunn.
‘Something for everybody’ can mean satisfaction for none. Yet there’s undeniably rich viewing in Claire Lyth’s settings (luxuriant Treasure Island is no desert island) and fast-paced invention in Carlton’s colourful production.
Long John Silver: James Earl Adair.
Mary Read/Yokel: Alice Blundell.
Captain Smollet/Blind Pew: Callum Hughes.
Jim Hawkins: Dylan Kennedy.
Black Dog/Captain Flint/Ben Gunn: Sam Kordbacheh.
Anne Bonnie/Jim’s Ma: Sarah Mahony.
Yokel/A Bloke: Steven Marwick.
Dr Livesey: Sean Needham.
Squire Trelawney/Yokel: Sam Pay.
Billy Bones/Israel Hands: Samuel Ward-Smith.
Director: Bob Carlton.
Designer/Costume: Claire Lyth.
Lighting: Andrew Smart.
Fight director: Malcolm Ranson.
Assistant director: Simon Jessop.