Saturday, 18 April 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Treasure Island - The National Theatre, London.

Avast. Ahoy, me Hearties! Aye, this right here is my review for the National Theatre’s production of “Treasure Island”. Yo Ho Ho, I thought the play was most enjoyable and pitched just right for families and children – savvy?

It was the third 'National Theatre Live At Home' production to be broadcast to the nation on YouTube. All in an effort to keep everyone’s spirits afloat singing, “Heave Ho” as we work through our domestic routines.

“Treasure Island” is of course adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s book where some buccaneers were deliberately fed to the fish so they will tell no tales. It was all one gigantic quest to find Flint’s gold, jewels, and treasure. A tale of mutiny where true friends and fake friends were revealed. This perilous and adventurous story was sailed to sea by Bryony Lavery and directed by Polly Findlay.

One dark and stormy night with the stars shining not too far way, Jim Hawkins, a lass and the inn-keeper’s granddaughter, opened the door to a scary stranger. The old seadog dragged behind his feet a huge sea-chest, full of secrets and one deceased octopus. Despite the danger of becoming involved in the pirate crowd, Jim invited him in through the door. She had no idea that her life-changing voyage just got underway. Everyone wants to be rich, right? Not everyone is willing to share the wealth.

Patsy Ferran played a youthful and vibrant Jim Hawkins. As the heroine of the story, during the testing times of real danger Ferran kept Jim remaining as upbeat as possible with an authentic zest for life. The manner in which Ferran broke the fourth wall to narrate the action of the story to the audience, it was almost like we were sat around a campfire. Meanwhile, Arthur Darvill was equally as good in his portrayal of Long John Silver because of his hornswoggling. You wouldn’t have thought initially he was a baddie by the way he conducted himself; he didn’t particularly look evil either. The way he played and manipulated people in order to selfishly look out for himself conveyed important messages to the audience.

I really liked the exploration of vocal work for this production as well. There was the possible problem that speaking like a pirate might have affected the ensemble’s enunciation and elocution, especially a potential issue in the large Olivier Theatre. Not only do the company maintain the gritty and raspy pirate voices but they all speak loudly and clearly. On a different topic, the play’s humour didn’t land as well as it could have, possibly because the production looked and felt more like a drama.

Blimey… blow me down! Lizzie Clachan’s set design was splendid. The whalebone-looking bow of a ship and the revolving stage was only just the beginning of this “inexhaustible box” set. The way the whole thing transformed into a pirate ship; the National Theatre’s very own Jolly Rodger was joyfully ingenious. Bruno Poet’s lighting absorbed you into the world of the play enhancing the swashbuckling and courageous nature of the whole narrative. The stars on the cyclorama were dazzling. It even appeared post-apocalyptic in the second half when the lighting nicely combined with stage smoke.

Music and sound composed by Dan Jones added another layer of authenticity to this world every kid wants to play in. Loud sounds like in the storm scene sounded convincing and the eerie, quieter sounds which opened the play were atmospheric. The style of the music reminded me of “War Horse”: the pirate songs were not only a way to keep the audience engaged through transitions but depicted the esprit de corps between the ship’s crew.

If you’re a landlubber this play isn’t for you. However, if you like to drink arrack, bumboo and grog or eat cackle fruit, doughboy and hardtack then you’ll love this show. “Treasure Island” meets expectations and is most enjoyable, but exceeds them when it comes to set design. If your sextant should fail, I think this production is not a bad place to get lost in. Go to YouTube now where you have until Thursday 23rd April to watch it.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 16/4/20

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