Treasure Island is the first professional cast showing of an in house production to grace the Leicester Haymarket stage since the venue closed its doors eleven years ago and it is energetically directed by War Horse puppetry director Matthew Forbes. Robert Louis Stevenson’s piratical adventure Treasure Island is adapted for the stage by Sandi Toksvig, comedian, writer and TV presenter. Toksvig’s sister Jenifer, has written the lyrics to music composed by David Perkins.
There is plenty of doubling and trebling up with the nine strong main cast with Mikey Brett as Rudolph/Billy Bones/Mr Arrow/Ben Gunn, Jules Brown as Long John Silver, Andrew Cullum as Sir Kensington Gore/Squire De Montfort, Tanveer Devgun as Tom/Blind Pugh/Captain Smollett, Kat Engall as Jim Hawkins, Mary Garbé as Florence/Doctor Livesey, Joyce Greenaway as Margaret, Dominic Rye as Frank/George and Meghan Treadway as Shirley/Parrot. Local hero Gary Lineker makes a ghostly appearance as Captain Flint in the second half. The theatre work utilises plenty of local community talent with a community chorus of twenty tripled up for the entire run.
Toksvig’s writing is riddled with witty lines and some poignancy in a show premise of some modern day actors gathering on the stage as it could perhaps have been left eleven years ago. They appear to be there to create a production out of very little. When the assembled actors and a parrot, all arrive there are jokes a plenty about stereotypical actors; most work and a couple of theatre in jokes fall by the wayside. In general the cast create a fun and optimistic atmosphere and the audience sit back and accept this style of creating and presenting a show.
The stage is virtually bare. There are short metal scaffolding towers at the back and stage right. Situated both sides of the large stage are some coloured wooden pallets and old wooden crates. The stage itself is floored with planks of wood and one side of the stage has roped rigging whilst the other is stage flats. A table has temporarily been given over for usage as a base for silly sound effects.
With some amusing discussion amongst the cast the idea of doing The Wizard of Oz is abandoned even though there is a perfectly serviceable lion costume waiting to be utilised. A budget restrained Treasure Island is agreed on and the show takes off with the actors gradually morphing into their character/s. The inclusion of the twenty vibrant and mostly young community actors gives the show a lot of its energy and they show off their singing and pirate dancing skills to perfection. Unlike some new musicals there are plenty of hummable tunes in this version of Treasure Island. And expect to be encouraged to sing along to a boat building sea shanty!
Overall we are treated to a fun, musically and visually arresting show where the main cast certainly seem to be having the daft time of their lives and this reflects in the clear audience reception during and at the finale. The style is often self referencing as the actors jump out of character to consider their actions and style of play. It is not a new way of presenting a theatre work by any means but it definitely works for this production. We loved it and would encourage any family to enjoy Treasure Island at Leicester Haymarket Theatre. Ooh aar!
Treasure Island runs at Leicester Haymarket until Sunday 6th Jan 2019.
Photos credit: Pamela Raith
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Phil Lowe is a member of UK Theatre.