Review: Treasure Island by Mate Productions

23 June 2018
Sudley House Gardens, Liverpool

Mate Production’s latest show is a steampunk re-imagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of buccaneers and buried gold, Treasure Island.

Using Phil Willmott’s adaption, where many of the central characters are women, the play was performed in the beautiful gardens at Sudley House, Liverpool.  The story has been moved to Merseyside and contains many local references.

The steampunk elements of the performance were limited to the dazzlingly beautiful costumes and parrot puppet Captain Flint (operated and voiced by Ryan Noone).  So you can’t expect any strong references to science fiction or the pirates travelling to the island in an airship.  However this is a very entertaining family show where full use is made of the advantages of an outdoor performance.  Noone is visible when operating the parrot but this doesn’t become intrusive or interfere with the performance in any way.

Clever use has been made of a multi level set which is used to create height and creates a real sense of the pirates’ tavern and ship.  Drumming and chanting together with perfectly choreographed movement drew the audience in right from the opening scene.  Set changes were done by the cast themselves which prevented the performance being interrupted.

The young delicate Jim Hawkins (Clay Travis) is bullied by the pirates from the beginning.  He goes into a tavern searching for a crew to help him find treasure.  His benefactor Lady Jaqueline Trelawney (Cassie Richardson) is very pleased with the men and women he has found.  But when Captain Obadiah Smollet (Lee Clotworthy) arrives he is less impressed and doesn’t trust them.

Regardless they set sail on the Hispaniola along with Long John Silver (Francesco La Rocca) as ship’s cook.  Jim and Long John soon develop a close relationship and become inseparable.  But when they reach the island Jim overhears Long John plotting with the other pirates to overthrow Smollet and steal all of the treasure.  Hurt by the betrayal, Jim is determined to save the day, but can he work out a way to stop the cruel and callous cutthroats?

Travis’ performance is flawless with the fragile character of Hawkins never dropping.  A childlike innocence shines from him and even in the character’s happier moments, he manages to look slightly terrified of everything.  His dialogue is written in overly proper English and Travis’ delivery enhanced the Jim’s awkwardness and nerves.

The vicious female pirate Shashka Dimitri (Holly Blue) is wonderfully wicked.  Taran Harris’ portrayal of Black Dog, a man who believes he is half dog, featured a good level of animal elements, which were very believable.

The manipulative Long John Silver has a Scottish accent which is a nice nod to Stevenson himself.  The steampunk elements in costume are put to particular use here with a heavy silver mechanical leg replacing the usual wooden peg.

The children watching the show were encouraged to sing and participate in the story.  The trunk where the map was hidden was within the audience area so the cast came out to look for it.  Ben Gunn (Kristian Lawrence), who proved to be the king of cheesy puns, also entered through the audience talking to people as he walked to the stage.

Featuring song, dance, pirates, flag waving and cheese galore, Treasure Island is a fun and entertaining show for all the family.

Will Jim be able to stop Long John Silver from stealing everything?  And how much help will cheese loving Ben be in the end?

Treasure Island will be performed around Merseyside until 14 July before going to the Edinburgh Fringe in August.  Pirate fancy dress is welcome.  Please let me know if you see the show and if you dress up for it.

You can find out more about Mate Productions on their websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Good luck with the rest of the show run!

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