by Robert Louis Stevenson adapted by Andrew Pollard.
The Stables Stockwell Lane Wavendon MK17 8LU To 9 January 2010.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01908 280800.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 December.
Two Treasures to choose from this year.
Shipped all the way from Scarborough inland to Milton Keynes, Northern Broadsides’ Treasure Island interestingly compares with the larger-scale adaptation at Kingston’s Rose Theatre. That wasn’t built to travel, and there’s a concentration in Andrew Pollard’s touring adaptation, as in Adam Sunderland’s skilled direction of Broadsides’ acting crew (two-thirds the size of the Rose’s, working on less than one-third the stage area), that suits its pacy narrative style.
Images – memories of young Jim Hawkins’ father embodied in the figure held over him as the story starts – and cinematic intercutting between different locations, pushing the story along on the Island itself, are more obviously theatrical than the more realistic style of Stephen Unwin’s Rose production of Karen Louise Hebden’s adaptation.
Yet the enthusiasm with which theatre has incorporated non-naturalistic, visual storytelling means the Broadsiders’ production can seem more ‘conventional’ than the Rose’s. And the gain in images of the more pared-down style is balanced by the greater expansiveness the longer Rose version gives characters and story.
Intriguingly different though they are, either can be enjoyed for its own strengths. At the Stables, Graeme Dalling is an eager young Jim, who learns about life through the story. Around him there’s gathered a notable crew of northern actors.
Though there isn’t room for the complexity of Richard Bremmer’s Rose John Silver, within Northern Broadsides’ clean, brisk style the very fine David Tarkenter shows the character’s mix of deceit, authority and the protection of Jim which puts that authority at risk.
Leigh Symonds, a noted actor in theatres around Greater Manchester, provides a strong Livesey and, given the production’s greater stylisation, Morgan George is perhaps surprisingly more naturalistic a Squire than the white-faced poseur in Kingston.
When plucked from her onstage double-bass, Jenni Molloy provides the female presence absent at the Rose, as Jim’s mother and the voice of Ben Gunn. Like Blind Pew in early scenes, Ben is portrayed physically as a puppet assembled from found objects in Lee Threadgold’s puppetry. Lean, darting exiguous figures, either fearsome or comic, these puppets mix with a modern theatricality to match the sweep of Stevenson’s story.
Captain Smollett: Andy Creswell.
Jim Hawkins: Graeme Dalling.
Squire Trelawney: Morgan George.
Mrs Hawkins: Jenni Molloy.
Doctor Livesey: Leigh Symonds.
Long John Silver: David Tarkenter.
Director: Adam Sunderland.
Designer/Costume: Dawn Outhwaite.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Composer/Musical Director: Jenni Molloy.
Puppetry: Lee Threadgold.