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A CurtainUp London London Review
Treasure Island

I couldn’t hurt you lad. You’re honest, brave and true. —Long John Silver
Treasure Island
Harry McEntire as Jim Hawkins and Richard Bremmer as Long John Silver (Chris Pearsall)
The Rose Theatre at Kingston has space for the audience to sit on cushions very near the stage and so on the night when we went to see Treasure Island almost a whole school of girls in uniform came in clutching bags containing their own assorted cushions ready for this thrilling Christmas play. They found themselves sitting in the swirling aqua sea as the set changes from the Admiral Benbow Inn to the schooner Hispaniola, to the tropical island where the treasure is hidden. Along the way, Jim Hawkins (Harry McEntire) survives the encounters with Black Dog (John O’Mahony) and Blind Pew (Keith Dunphy) to set sail with white faced and wigged nincompoop, Squire Trelawney (Daniel Goode) and Dr Livesey (Peter Forbes). Together they hire the uncompromising Captain Smollett (David Cardy) and the cook Long John Silver (Richard Bremmer) who has a parrot Captain Flint, and a famous wooden leg.

Paul Wills’ set is quite magnificent with its nautical collection of barrels, ropes, nets, baskets and wooden boxes on several levels, rope ladders connecting them. Add the music, a well chosen selection of sea shanties, including Robert Louis Steven’s own "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum", and the seafaring atmosphere is complete. Mark Bouman and Mia Flodquist have gone to town with the pirates’ costumes, wonderfully authentic jackets with huge cuffs and buttons, which have seen better days, but characterful, colourful and adventurous.

Richard Bremmer has charisma as the old sea dog, Long John Silver, his left leg held in a wooden stump. Tall, at well over six feet, he really is a Long John. As the sea cook he swaps recipes with Jim for the traditional English pudding, Plum Duff. His eyes twinkle as he dances the hornpipe with the wooden leg to "We’re Treasure Island Bound" – quite remarkable! He commands the stage and defies the pirate’s death sentence, the black spot with a piercing stare. Harry McEntire is perfect, the right age for Jim Hawkins and sincerely straightforward as the thoroughly good egg he is. The rest of the cast enjoy the villainy and camping up their roles. Keith Dunphy is in many roles but finally as the island castaway Ben Gunn, he begs for a piece of cheese with the lovely song, "Oh cheese, Feta, Cheshire, Dorset Blue, Gouda, Edam, Port Salut!" like a character out of Monty Python’s Flying Circus who has been dreaming of cheese since he was left behind on the island.

There are pyrotechnics as cannons fire and rifles go off and swashbuckling sword fights between the mutineers and the loyal crew making use of the ropes and block and tackle. We sway with the motion of the ship on board and when we disembark on land, the set becomes an island with palm trees and flying birds and monkey noises. Stephen Unwin hits the spot with this tale of skulduggery which had all ages in his audience transfixed.

Note: This magnificent version of Treasure Island by Karen Louise Hebden was first staged in December 2007 at Derby Playhouse, who were put into liquidation when the local authority, Derby City Council refused to forward to them a £40,000 grant and the Arts Council withdrew support. Although no longer the Derby Playhouse, a local university has taken on the buildings and will trade as the Derby Theatre.

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Treasure Island
Written by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted for the stage by Karen Louise Hebden
Original Music by Brian Protheroe
Directed by Stephen Unwin

Starring: Harry McEntire, Richard Bremmer
With: David Cardy, Keith Dunphy, Peter Forbes, Daniel Goode, Tom Jude, David Mara, John O’Mahony, Prunella Scales as the voice of Captain Flint the parrot
Set Design: Paul Wills
Costume Design: Mark Bouman and Mia Flodquist
Musical Director: Phil Bateman
Lighting: Ben Ormerod
Sound: Gregory Clarke
Movement and Fight Director: Kevin McCurdy
Running time: Two hours 20 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0871 230 1552
Booking to 9th January 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th December 2009 performance at the Rose Theatre, 24-26 High Street, Kingston, KT1 1HL (Rail: Kingston)

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