Last week, the National Theatre’s production of Treasure Island was beamed live to cinemas across the UK. I went along to my local screening with an NT Live first timer who seemed to be as taken with the whole experience as I am, I highly recommend it! If you’re interested in seeing Treasure Island it’s encore screenings begin in February, further information can be found here. Anyway, here are my thoughts …
… Treasure Island is on a long list of literary classics that I’ve never read (I hate to admit it, but I’ve never been that much of a reader!) but thanks to having Muppet Treasure Island on repeat for most of my childhood I did enter this NT live experience with some idea of the plot! The basic premise is relatively simple, some pirates and some ordinary folk take a trip to find some treasure … on an island!
This production of Treasure Island does more than that though, adapted from Louis Stevenson’s book by Bryony Lavery, the entire journey acts as a metaphor for Jim (the young lead)’s coming of age. On the island he (or she in this case … yay for equality!) learns a lot about life, rights and wrongs, friends and bad friends … you get the idea.
As much as I enjoyed the pirates, sense of adventure and sparks of humour that this play presents; I didn’t find it an earth shattering piece – perhaps I’m a little old to appreciate it in that way. It didn’t demand my brain to work overtime, but it was super fun to watch!
This Production of Treasure Island
… is scenically beautiful – the National’s Olivier auditorium is practically transformed into a planetarium. I was constantly in awe of the size of the sets appearing from underneath the stage. A fully furnished, double-decker, set portrays the ship’s cabins and the deck itself has rope ladders that reach the top of the theatre; all of which is sat on a revolving stage that’s able to move in a way that rocks and rolls as a ship would on the water … incredible. Add in a fully formed (over six foot) rock of tunnels, a bubbling muddy swamp, an animatronic parrot and some incredibly detailed pirate costumes and you’re in for a visual treat!
The large cast was utterly convincing, each pirate brought a distinct set of humour to the table. They were led by relative newcomer Patsy Ferran as Jim, who was captivating as she carried the audience through Jim’s story; and Arthur Darvill as Long John Silver whose portrayal continuously hovered on the line between good and bad. There wasn’t a weak link.
My Verdict on Treasure Island
Although I didn’t find this production particularly groundbreaking, it was an incredibly enjoyable, fun, experience. I think it was designed to be accessible to a young audience and thus provides an excellent opportunity to introduce children to theatre (although it might be the slightest bit scary for the very young!). It’s worth seeing for the visuals alone! I give Treasure Island a rating of 3/5.