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A CurtainUp London Review
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.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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