Wow! What an evening’s entertainment! This production has everything from swashbuckling pirates, to puppetry, folk music, mime, a wonderful ‘al fresco’ set, seagulls to add to the ambience at just the right times and not even a drop of rain to mar the evening.
It was appropriate for this production to be shown in Bristol as Robert Louis Stevenson sets much of the first part of the book Treasure Island in Bristol and the South West. The pirate crew were all recruited from Bristol and the ship The Hispaniola sets out from Bristol Port in the book.
Treasure Island is a long time classic favourite and even people who have never read the book will recognize the names of Captain Flint, Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins. Not to mention parrots, pirates and pieces of eight!
The idea to stage it outside the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, using the Georgian front of the theatre as a back drop was the inspirational idea of Sally Cookson - director – and Phil Eddolls – set designer - and it works so well. From the first moment the characters appear the audience is drawn into the story. Eddolls’ set is clever – simple but incredibly effective. Great use is made of different levels taking us from the deck of the ship to the stockade on Treasure Island itself.
The play is performed with a small cast of eight, including the musicians. The parts of Blind Pew, Ben Gunn, Tom, and pirate chorus are covered admirably by Saikat Ahamed. Howard Coggins plays Billy Bones, a wonderful Squire Trelawney, Job Anderson and pirate chorus. The parts of Dr Livesey, Black Dog, Mad Mick and pirate chorus are taken by Craig Edwards. Captain Smollett, Captain Flint, George Merry and pirate chorus are well played by Ian Harris. Zara Ramm – the only women amongst the actors – plays Mrs Hawkins (Jim’s Mother), Israel Hands and pirate chorus. Tristan Sturrock makes a really believable and sinister Long John Silver also filling in as pirate chorus, and Jonny Weldon is an excellent Jim Hawkins, who wins the audience’s heart from the very start of the play.
Finally we have the very talented Benji Bower as a pirate musician. Benji is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer. He acted as composer and musical director for this show, producing music that is appropriate for each of the scenes, easy to listen to and great to join in with!
Sally Cookson pulls the whole thing together so that it flows at a good pace. The audience certainly does not have time to get bored, and good use is made of all the acting space, with incredibly physical performances – up and down steps, climbing ropes, swinging back down to the stage area, and performing some excellent fights.
If you like a rattling good tale make sure that you get a ticket for this production. Seating is limited so you’ll need to book in advance. The show runs until 26 August and whatever your age this show will take you on the adventure of a lifetime.