You are looking for treasure? Well, here’s a little gem of a show. Surrounded (on the night I attended) by what seemed like 500 excited schoolchildren, in full voice, I wondered how the cast would be able to cope. I needn’t have worried – Andy Cannon and Iain Johnstone have done it all before! They remained in perfect control of proceedings throughout and had their young audience paying rapt attention. A man saying he needed a “wee wee” and beginning to undo his trousers had them agog from the start. (Don’t worry, nothing untoward happens!)
Two ‘musicians’ had been performing on a luxury liner, but following a wreck three weeks ago, they’ve now adrift on a raft, surrounded by all they managed to save from the ship (an odd assortment of items including a parasol and a double bass). They have nothing to eat but bananas and are down to their last bottle of champagne.
And they’re beginning to get on each other’s nerves - when Andy finds Iain reading his favourite book, Treasure Island, he brandishes Iain’s favourite ukulele and they almost come to blows. Instead, agreeing that Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure story of piracy and buried treasure is a tale worth telling, they proceed to act out the entire book chapter by chapter, each taking several parts as the story unfolds and using every bit of their salvaged possessions to illustrate the characters.
This extremely clever production from the award-winning Wee Stories company brilliantly captures the imagination of the audience. In spite of only two actors playing so many characters, there’s no confusion at all about what’s happening.
The emphasis shifts constantly - from the sudden shock of a spotlit ‘pirate’ with crossed cutlasses (violin bows) to comic riffs, including the very expressive Iain resisting playing the part of the mother. There are also opportunities for letting off a little audience steam. The children are encouraged to be pirates, waving their own ‘cutlasses’ in the air and engaging in some ‘pirate grumbling’. They do the latter happily – first loudly, then softly, then falling quickly silent as they’re gripped once again by the story.
Kevin Low’s production photographs also help to set the scene. Superb stagecraft, expertly executed, and guaranteed to transfix children and adults with the thrill of this classic adventure story.
- Sheila Ann Connor (reviewed at the Richmond Theatre)