Treasure Island

Mon 13th – Sat 18th August 2018

reviews

Melissa Tutesigensi

at 09:46 on 14th Aug 2018

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‘Treasure Island’ promises a “pirate adventure for all the family” but, unfortunately, this was not for me. You might be thinking, why then go to a family show when you know it will appeal more to an audience of children? In truth, reviewing a bunch of shows at the Fringe has allowed me to see so much that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen myself and it has, until this experience, been a valuable one in bringing me to something new. Unfortunately, ‘Treasure Island’ was more something inappropriate for my age demographic than something new.

It wasn’t just me feeling too old to be there, especially given the fact that I was not taking a child to see it, but it seemed like there were audience members who were too young. A girl in the front row started to cry at the distress of the sword fighting for instance. A parent who had taken her daughter to see it reckoned that it should have been rated at 7yrs and up. ‘Treasure Island’s first problem therefore was that they were not specific enough in attracting the right audience. More careful and specific marketing is what the show needs, then they can pack an audience full of people that will enjoy the well-produced show.

If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Jim Hawkins is on a quest to put together a crew to find Treasure Island. Little does he know that some of the people he has recruited will go on to betray him, most shockingly of all, Long John Silver. Mate Productions’ rendition of this classic kept to the very basic plot. They didn’t need to go for a deeper, more nuanced rendition because they didn’t have to. Instead they provided an entertaining and comical show. A key feature that the production did well was to interact with the audience. This usually frustrates me but, for this show, it worked in further igniting the imagination of the children.

The strength and quality of the performance was best seen in certain set changes, a real credit to the musical accompaniment in providing the energy of the show. They were wobbly in other areas unfortunately, with one or two people forgetting the choreography, some accents not striking the right tone and unrealistic fighting. I felt slightly unconvinced as Shashka Dimitri grabbed the blade of the sword and shuffled rather than swerving a potential blow to the stomach. I know we should be using our imagination but this seemed too much of a stretch.

The highlight of the show however was the character of Benjamin Gunn and the ongoing cheese joke that escalated in absurdity with a Beach Boy’s ‘Vegetables’ style song about it. Kristian Lawrence had perfect demand of this role and provided guaranteed laughter from the audience each time. "I don't want souls, just Stilton!" he says, as Jim tries to come up with a plot to overthrow the pirates.

Overall, ‘Treasure Island’ proved to be a success. It delivered what it set out to do and the warm energy of the cast and crew could be felt by all ages.

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Charlie Norton

at 10:45 on 14th Aug 2018

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MATE Productions’ touring adaptation of ‘Treasure Island’ cleverly brings to life a vibrant world of steampunk, swashbuckling swordfights and song.

An all-ages audience follow the cheerful hero Jim Hawkins as he unwittingly teams up with a motley crew of pirates in the pursuit of adventure and, more importantly, treasure. Along the way, Hawkins meets an array of distinctive individuals, from the haughtily maternal Lady Trelawney to the bizarrely canine pirate Black Dog.

Phil Willmott’s adaptation brushes aside the traditional characterisation of the tale as a ‘boys’ adventure’, handing a number of male roles over to women. Satirical jabs about gender draw laughs from the adults in the audience and, more importantly, the presentation of confident and empowered women puts forward a positive message to the young girls – and boys – in the audience.

The cast neatly tread the line of pantomime, delivering performances that are accessible for children without being hackneyed and corny. Kristian Lawrence as the absurdist cheese-lover Ben Gunn is a particular highlight, eliciting constant laughs. As a minor criticism, more could be done to establish rapport with the children in the audience. Though some steps are taken towards achieving this, the search for the map to Treasure Island is inhibited by poor placement of the trunk, which means most of the audience could not see what was happening.

Aesthetically, ‘Treasure Island’ is flawless, with an inventive set and richly detailed steampunk costumes and props – the puppet parrot Captain Flint, masterfully operated by Ryan Noone, is a particularly beautiful piece of craftwork. The visual success of the production is matched by impeccable percussive interludes, chants and original music, whilst intricate sword fights and ensemble dances are well imaginative and executed.

Ultimately, ‘Treasure Island’ is an immersive hour of entertainment delivered by a talented cast with skill and enthusiasm. MATE Productions invites families to join a colourful and explosive adventure which is a pleasure to watch.

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