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 The black spot of certain death had been, temporarily at least, withdrawn from the 530-seat theatre, the area's only professional producing house.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
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'