by Robert Louis Stevenson adapted by Karen Louise Hebden.
Rose Theatre 35-26 High Street KT1 1HL To 9 January 2010.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0871 230 1552.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 December.
Skullduggery and heroism in adventurous telling.
Last night, an (impeccably behaved) girls’ school party filled the front-floor space with which Kingston’s Rose recaptures the atmosphere of Shakespearean public theatre, their presence emphasising that R L Stevenson’s famous story is very much a boy’s own tale.
Adapter Karen Louise Hebden reinforces this, having young Jim Hawkins open the play by recounting his experiences. With his mother sidelined to the sick-room at the Admiral Benbow Inn, where matters begin, this must be in a minority of one as a main-stage Christmas show with no female presence – apart from Prunella Scales’ voice as Long John Silver’s pet parrot.
Hebden, and director Stephen Unwin, play Stevenson’s adventure story at full value, neither bogging it down with psychoanalysis nor tricking it out with humour. Especially when the action reaches Treasure Island itself. The sole concession to seasonal entertainment are the songs, one for marooned, cheese-craving Ben Gunn turning into quite a variety turn.
I know nothing of Turk Launches but am glad to mention them favourably, for, according to Unwin, without them the Rose’s Treasure Island set would not have been possible. And designer Paul Wills’ three-galleried design, transforming into various English and sea-going localities before the interval, then turning – under Ben Ormerod’s green-tinged lighting – into the Island’s luxurious foliage, is a major success of the show.
Harry McEntire (so good as the knowledgeable pupil in Punk Rock recently) shows young Jim’s innocence and eagerness. But, strong as are all the part-swapping, wig-donning lot, Richard Bremmer’s Long John Silver stands out. Given the white-faced foolishness of Daniel Goode’s Squire Trelawny – until experience teaches him otherwise – David Cardy’s tight-mannered Captain Smollett and the neutral common sense of Peter Forbes’ Doctor Livesey, it’s Bremmer’s Long John that soaks up sympathy and interest.
His intelligence, courage under attack from his own gang, protection of Jim and ability to plan ahead – plus the genuine pain when he has to stand up using his only leg – flesh-out his piratical plausibility. This long John is as honest- seeming as any Iago, without the driving malevolence beneath. It’s a performance that enhances the story, and production’s, rich activity.
Long John Silver: Richard Bremmer.
Billy Bones/Captain Smollett/Stede: David Cardy.
Blind Pew/Mr Arrow/Ben Gunn/Sharp: Keith Dunphy.
Dr Livesey: Peter Forbes.
Squire Trelawney/Dirk: Daniel Goode.
Tom Morgan/Thomas Redruth/O’Brian/Guest: Tom Jude.
Jim Hawkins: Harry McEntire.
Israel Hands/George Merry: David Mara.
William Anderson/Abraham Gray/Black Dog/Hunter: John O’Mahony.
Captain Flint (voice): Prunella Scales.
Director: Stephen Unwin.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Lighting: Ben Ormerod.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Musical Director/ Arrangements: Phil Bateman.
Movement/Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.
Costume: Mark Bouman, Mia Flodquist.
Associate director: Natascha Metherell.
Associate movement/fight director: Andrew Ashenden.