Another gem from the National Theatre archive I’ve wanted to see for a while, Treasure Island proves to be a family adventure, a shanty-song heavy musical, and an interesting take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s beloved novel.
A major change in Bryony Lavery’s adaptation makes the cabin boy narrator a girl; one Jemima “Jim” Hawkins (played in borderline panto style by Patsy Ferran, keeping the enjoyment level high). Her discovery of the map which cost Billy Bones his life leads to the great, good and gormless taking sail on the Hispaniola.
Long John Silver (a dasterdly and darkly hissable Arthur Darvill) and his parrot Captain Flint plot in the ship’s galley to find the treasure they lost in their previous voysge (on the notorious Walrus).
But despite a bit of romance between young Jim and Long John being hinted at, she does his Grandma proud in the end by teaming up with the resourceful Ben Gunn (Joshua James, a bit reminiscent of Rik Mayall’s mad prisoner in Blackadder, but given a decent amount of stage time).
Polly Findlay’s production and Lizzie Clachan’s design makes full use of the Olivier’s drum revolve to bring tavern, ship, and island to life, while Bruno Poet’s lighting evokes menace and brings star constellations to life.
This screen recording brings all the elements together for a cast watching second-hand; there’s all the intrigue and double-crossing you would want, plus a great role model for young female viewers.
It’s a definite hit, and it is available on the National Theatre YouTube channel until this evening. Images by Johan Persson.