Treasure Island, Bristol Old Vic
Friday 15 July 2011
A ship has dropped anchor in Bristol. There's nothing unusual in that, perhaps. But this one is on dry land, parked outside the Old Vic Theatre and overrun by 18th-century pirates.
The theatre space of the Old Vic is closed for redevelopment. But director Sally Cookson, not one to be deterred by the lack of a theatre, decided to construct a stage on the Old Vic's doorstep for her production of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island.
Phil Eddolls's nautically inspired set is a work of art: there is rigging to climb up and nooks to hide in. The simplest of props transforms the set into a ship, a tavern, or a swamp.
The fulcrum of Stevenson's yarn is Long John Silver, the buccaneer who becomes a father-figure to the story's protagonist, Jim Hawkins. So it is here: Tristan Sturrock's Silver dominates and he clearly relishes the part. He chews on each line like so many quids of tobacco and ad-libbed dialogue rolls off his tongue. After one show-stealing scene in which he defeated five pirates, he turned to the applauding audience and said: "That's right, applaud my casual murders."
Hawkins, played by Jonny Weldon, is the picture of youthful enthusiasm and his excitement is contagious. When he comes face to face with the mutineer, Israel Hands – a malevolent Zara Ramm – the ensuing fight scene is one of the most dramatic of the evening. Elsewhere, Saikat Ahamed is brilliantly barmy as the marooned pirate Ben Gunn and Howard Coggins gets many of the evening's laughs as the pompous Squire Trelawney.
Throughout the production Benji Bower provides a jaunty music accompaniment on an array of instruments including an accordion and a xylophone. Sea shanties punctuate the production and the pirates at some points more resemble a jazz band than buccaneers.
Cookson has created a Treasure Island that grabs you by the doubloons and carries you along on an unashamedly swashbuckling adventure. The only element missing from her production is a frisson of real evil. In Stevenson's book, Long John Silver is charming, intelligent and quick-witted, yes: but he is also a model of amorality. This Silver was just too nice.
To 26 August (0117 987 7877)
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 'Necrophilia-obsessed' girl among double murder accused in three-way sex case
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Revealed after 75 years of secrecy: 'Fifi' the glamorous WW2 special agent who tested British spies' resolve
Laurie Lee's Rosie: What is it like to inspire a writer's work and be immortalised forever on the page?
Doctor Who series 8: Time Heist pictures revealed ahead of episode 5
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Star Wars 7 leaked set photo of Adam Driver changes everything
Pharrell Williams says 'Blurred Lines' criticism is out of context