Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Debbie Oates
Dukes Theatre Company
The Dukes, Lancaster
This year’s Dukes Christmas production is in-the-round and performed in the intimate The Round so the audience is very much in the show. This is a lively, colourful production with excellent performances from a multi-talented cast.
The play opens as the Hawkins family, in Morecambe, are busily clearing out a room for their new baby sister, chucking out ‘junk’—and re-sifting forgotten treasures. Twelve-year-old Jem is being hassled and busied by her Dad and older brother, John. John is using an arm in a sling for skiving—though it doesn’t stop him from pinching an ancient telescope from Jem. Jem finds an unusual, old copy of Treasure Island and a book of children’s rhymes and starts to read.
Dad’s frustration reaches a peak with the return of Jem’s mum and baby sister from hospital then the announcement of the imminent and unexpected arrival of Uncle David, Jem’s favourite uncle. Dad boils over and throws the cat, Suki, who is confused by the noise and disruption out into the gathering storm; Jem rushes out to find her. Are you with me so far? Keep up.
Jem meets Uncle David and shows him the copy of Treasure Island which, it transpires, had been given to him for safe keeping by Billy Bones, a strange character, who told him to keep it safe. Now Debbie Oates's adaptation starts to take off.
Long John Silver and his parrot arrive, the parrot steals the book and, as it flies off, a map falls out of the book, a treasure map—not just any treasure map but the map that Long John had been looking for for many a long year. Jem and Uncle David decide to go after the treasure and head to Bristol to find a ship and a crew assisted by the smooth and creepy Long John, oh no it’s not, Silver.
Silver recruits the comically incompetent and clumsy cartoonistic George Merry and Tom Morgan—ooh, we’re not pirates—then finds a ship captained by the chronically hungry Captain Molly Hands—not a pirate either, no, no not me. Through storm and calm Jem, Uncle David and the conniving, we’re not pirates, crew reach Treasure Island and meet the cowardly castaway Ben Gunn. They hunt for the treasure only to find that someone had got there first.
Marx Brothers meet Monty Python knockabout rollicking fun with plenty of slapstick, colourful fun keeps the kids and adults in the audience oohing, aaahing and laughing. In-the-round you can see the wide-open eyes and mouths opposite. Thoroughly enjoyable, great fun. Oh yes, they do find the treasure and bring some back to, er, Morecambe.
Was it a dream? Well Tom Morgan (Gareth Cassidy) did look a bit like Dad, Long John Silver (Ali Watt) was suspiciously like brother John, George Merry (Charlotte McKinney) could well have been Mum and was Captain Molly Hands (Ann Marcuson) Ben Gunn and various other characters?
Uncle David was well played by Jim Kitson and the wonderful, energetic, innocent Jem was Nisa Cole. The puppet characters of Suki, the parrot and ships cat, voices off and live music were created by the cast. MD and composer was Carol Donaldson, lighting Brent Lees, choreography Ruth Tyson-Jones. Simple and effective design, Alison Heffernan.
Oh yes, Jem gets back home safely, Suki is already home, well cats do, don’t they?
A great rollicking Christmas treat. Seating is limited, so get yourselves down to The Dukes my hearties.
Reviewer: Denis W McGeary