Throughout Treasure IslandMichael Cole’s Doctor Livesey keeps making the joke that it is not a pantomime but a family show. Indeed this is true during the first act when the cast tells Robert Louis Stevenson’s story about a boy called Jim Hawkins Laurence McNamara who discovers a treasure map and goes on an adventure, with pirates in tow, to find hidden treasure on an island.
However, all the cast do during the first half is rush through the story and sing a few songs. Together with a rather cumbersome set, it never engages with the kids. At a running time of two hours the writers could have included some more pirate escapades.
It is not until we get to the island in Act 2 that the cast involve the young audience in some fun moments, including the search for the treasure and a few battles. A highlight is the help the audience provide to find out whether fifteen men can stand on a dead man’s chest. A special moment is provided by the island inhabitant Ben Gunn, played by understudy Matt Devereaux, who sings about his cravings for cheese on toast.
The cast for the most part is very good. Michael Magnet is quite the villainous Long John Silver. Nicola Blackman stands out from the cast as a truly larger-than-life and boisterous Captain. The children are a delight playing the parts of pirates, some parrots and even the ship’s resident rats.
On the whole Treasure Island is basically two shows in one, where the first act lets down the far more entertaining second act.