Review by Fran Edwards
Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of pirates and treasure has been retold many times since the 1900’s. This version was adapted by Bryony Lavery for the National Theatre and makes the central character, Jim Hawkins, a girl and incorporates several female Pirates (there were many real women pirates) but keeps the well loved characters like Long John Silver, Blind Pew, Ben Gunn, Black Dog and the parrot Captain Flint.
The action that takes place at the Admiral Ben Bow Inn, aboard the Hispaniola and on the Island is on a set that adapts easily from one scene to another, with a picture book feel.
Sophie Livingston-Pearce narrates the opening scene well, establishing the Inn scene with her Grandmother played by Jenny Allen introducing the regular clientele, Squire Trelawney, played with bluster by Ben Todd, Doctor Livesey charcterised as very controlled by Bronwyn Ruciak and Mrs Crossley (with her chicken)by Rebecca Kemp. Also in the crowd are Heather Crawford, Brad Martin, Fredrick Pincombe and Jacqui Maynard. Before these clients arrive the haunted Bill Bones played spookily by Damien White has unsettled Jim and the later entry of Blind Pew (Brian Godfrey) and Black Dog (Thorin Cupit) doesn’t help.
Squire Trelawney appoints a new captain, Captain Smolett, played with authority by Lindsay Dunn. Of course this sets up a range of conflicts. All the usual things happen mostly true to the original story due to plans conspired by Long John Silver (Stuart Pearce) with his colourful parrot Captain Flint (beautifully voiced by Matt Chapman) and including his crew Joan the Goat (Rose Vallen), the Spaniard Israel Hands (Thomas Midena), Dick the Dandy (Leah Lowe), gentle Killigrew the Kind (Mike Leach), the whinging George Badger (Ryan Ricci) and the unnoticed Grey (Jenny Allen). The other cast member is Maxwell Whigham who gives a convincing performance as Ben Gunn the cabin boy who was marooned on the island.
Sophie Livingston-Pearce maintains a good performance throughout, while other memorable moments are created by Damien White, Ben Todd, Brian Godfrey, Thorin Cupit and Stuart Pearce in their characters, although all the cast did well, but a special mention for Jenny Allen for being invisible!
Director Megan Dansie has played this tale for the fun it contains and succeeded. The minimal scene changes are covered by the singing of sea shanties, avoiding any blank spaces. The costumes are an interesting mix, depicting the various characters, some more successfully than others. The fight scenes are well handled by Jethro Pidd but miss the mark in some cases. Overall this is a light hearted bit of fun with a well know tale, well worth a visit.