Review: Treasure Island. Derby Theatre

Treasure Island.

Derby Theatre.

Adapted by Theresa Heskins.

Directed by Sarah Brigham

Runs until 31st December.

Avast on the mainsail me hearties! Look ye out on the starboard bow! Protect the treasure booty at all costs! By the feared black pirate skull and crossbones flag, tis the good ship The Intrepid Derby Theatre on the horizon. It’s approaching full sail through the mist and armed to the teeth with festive drama! Their rapscallion crew are goin’ to try to board our pirate decks under the charge of the admirable Cap’n Sarah Brigham (known with terror on the high seas as the director). By fury, they’ve got masked FOH and theatre programmes for sale! They mean business and they be taking no prisoners. “Aaaar!”

Shiver me timbers and send me down to Davey Jones’ Locker, we all thought Treasure Island by The Intrepid Derby Theatre was run aground by the stormy seas of Covid Lockdown eighteen months ago – never to return. But no!! They do be made of tougher stuff than that me buckos.

By the sacred name of Robert Louis Stevenson and all fearsome buccaneers, it just shows you can’t keep plucky old Cap’n Brigham down. Both she and her motley crew of triple threat actors and her technical wizards. They may all be arty landlubbers but by ‘eck they still be good fighters and don’t give up easily. Plus they can all act, sing, dance and, this time around, they are armed to the teeth with fully integrated British Sign Language and Captioning. “Aaaar!”  

So, all you rapscallions, you piratical sons and daughters of the salty sea and you er – theatre going types – settle ye back in yer ‘ammocks and knock back a gallon or three of rum-infused Christmas fun. Aaaar! Tis party time me hearty and… juuuust in case oi haven’t mentioned this before – “Aaaar!”

Read all about it down below. Or Long John Silver will make you walk the plank!

Treasure Island at Derby Theatre is a five star treasure trove treat and a Jolly Roger rumbustious romp! It’s for everybody. Even pirates and parrots!

There is super fine attention to detail written all over this production of Treasure Island, in the beautifully crafted costumes, the brilliant sets and in the added visual storytelling beauty of BSL augmenting every single performance. The fully integrated British Sign Language and Captioning aspects of the show serve many purposes: They add proper accessibility to every Treasure Island theatre performance at Derby Theatre: the benefits being fully expanded to the Deaf community that often have only one night of captioning and one night of BSL to enjoy a show.

Treasure Island director Sarah Brigham says “Derby has one of the largest Deaf populations outside of London, and so it seemed right that we should be creating work for our Deaf audiences and communities that they could attend whenever they would like to. That means that Treasure Island is fully integrated with British Sign Language and Captioning and has been developed by a team of both Deaf and hearing creatives.”

From this reviewer’s point of view Treasure Island works on all levels and appeals to both the hearing and Deaf communities. From their reactions ( much laughter and cheering) the many school children in the audience tonight clearly love it.

The excellent hard-working cast are Becky Barry, Kai Boole, Charlie Ellen-Ayers, Erin Siobahn Hutching, Nadeem Islam, Oriane Johnson, Raffie Julien, Jim Kitson, Racheal Merry, Donna Mullings, April Nerissa Hudson, Alex Novak, Garry Robson, Dominic Rye, Robert Took. And a sheep and a parrot.

There are seven BSL performers four of which are Deaf and three hearing. Disabled actor Garry Robson plays the iconic disabled role of Long John Silver and writer Theresa Heskins has made the artistic decision to change Treasure Island’s young hero Jim Hawkins into a female role by the name of Gem Hawkins. Gem is brought thrillingly to stage life by two actors, April Nerissa Hudson and Raffie Julien. Together they combine a speaking Gem and a signing Gem who work in conjunction. This method of communicating the story has similarities in other Deaf/Hearing creative ‘partnerships’ and makes for a terrifically exciting show.

There’s plenty of original atmospheric folk based songs and shanties ( composer and sound designer Ivan Stott) to enjoy and some fearsome swashbuckling and pirate fights. As well as being a classic serious drama there is also plenty of humour throughout to make this a ‘plumb full of adventure’ colourful Treasure Island Christmas show at Derby Theatre that all the family can revel in. It’s pure gold me hearties! “Aaaar!”

Photo credits: Robert Day


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