Treasure Island, Derby Playhouse, Derby

4.00

Treasure from a theatre on the rocks

It's going to take more than a few pieces of eight, or doubloons, even, to save Derby Playhouse from Davy Jones's locker. That's certainly how it seemed last month when, with choice theatrical timing, it was announced that the company had gone into liquidation. It seemed as though Treasure Island might sink without trace. It was a rum do, as the sea-dogs of the Hispaniola might have said.

A theatre in the doldrums is nothing new, but one on a knife-edge, threatened by lubbers (clownish dolts, according to the useful programme glossary) and forced to rely on gentlemen of fortune, is the stuff of a great West End show. And, in fact, that is exactly what Derby Playhouse's boisterous production of Stevenson's tale of buccaneers and buried gold deserves – a West End airing.

After the cancellation of the first week of performances, and the joint artistic director Stephen Edwards offering almost £30,000 of his own money to tide the theatre over, hopes of survival seemed doomed. Then a consortium led by a former Playhouse chairman put £160,000 into the theatre. That was all it took for a staff – as numerically skeletal as the cadaver left guarding the pirates' long-lost treasure – to hoist the flag again, waive their pay and set the leaky ship afloat once more. Rights were renegotiated, the cast re-contracted and swords replaced in their sheaths. The black spot of certain death had been, temporarily at least, withdrawn from the 530-seat theatre, the area's only professional producing house. The debate about the viability of the Playhouse rages on, as the sums required to keep it open are being scrutinised and stars such as Alan Rickman, Simon Callow, Timothy West and Prunella Scales rally round.

Extra performances have now been added to the run of Karen Louise Hebden's compelling adaptation of the story of fearsome pirates, dusty maps, schooners, tropical islands and a one-legged seaman with a gaudy, garrulous parrot. That gives London producers as well as audiences from surprisingly far afield more opportunity to catch this splendid production and discover what a hidden treasure the Playhouse is. X marks the spot in the shopping mall which threatens to engulf the Playhouse.

I don't know of a more gripping tale of derring-do on the high seas, with its desperate search for hidden gold on a tropical island. It scared me stiff as a child and I still quake at the sound of Blind Pew's tapping tick. In this faithful stage version – created with the help of the director's Master Mariner father, Captain Hebden – quaint characters are thrillingly depicted while nifty action has young and old on the edge of their seats. The veteran Ben Roberts emerges from playing a menacing old Billy Bones to being stalwart Smollett, indisputably in charge of the ship. Glyn Kerslake cuts an ambiguous figure as the charismatic Long John Silver and Gregory Gudgeon is alternately sinister as Pew and hilarious as the half-crazed, cheese-craving Ben Gunn, delightful in a nifty number parodying Gilbert and Sullivan. A vigorous little band plays while the cast roars its shanties and ballads.

Brian Protheroe's music adds boundless atmosphere to a show in which colours of all hues – from the fusty Admiral Benbow Inn to the exotic Caribbean island – transport the audience to what Stevenson's stepson called a "heaven of enchantment". But what of young Jim Hawkins himself? Making an impressive debut, Daniel Hinchliffe is confidently engaging as the boy whose child-like delight at finding himself in the middle of the best nautical adventure of all time turns to an abrupt coming of age in the light of bloody battle and piratical skulduggery.

The fate of the devious mutineers is left hanging in the air; but doughty Derby Playhouse must be not be left marooned.

Until 2 February (www.derbyplayhouse.co.uk; 01332 363275)

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?