Treasure Island, review: This revamp of Stevenson's classic tale is quite confusing

Olivier, National Theatre

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Lizzie Clachan's darkly spectacular set is dominated by the great hulking ribs of a ship that then become the curved ominous trees of the treasure island – a nightmarish place, here, covered in revoltingly tumescent swampy bubbles.

A cross-section of the Hispaniola rears up on the Olivier's mighty drum revolve. You can't accuse the National of stinting on the design side of their Christmas show. But in other departments, the success is more mixed. Adapted by Bryony Lavery and directed by Polly Findlay, this is a revamp of Stevenson's classic tale of mutiny and deception that, in the first half, is in danger of confusing the children because of unclear story-telling and throughout never quite masters the trick of being simultaneously a suspenseful yarn and a jokey, 21st century spoof of one.

Our hero and narrator Jim, the cabin boy here becomes tomboyish cabin girl, engagingly played by Patsy Ferran and the blow for gender equality casting (there are female pirates) is wittily struck. But Arthur Darvill, equipped with a prosthetic leg and an animatronic parrot, fails to exude dangerous charisma as an oddly flavourless Long John Silver.  The funniest character is Grey (Tim Samuels), a sailor so wanly unnoticeable that the pirates neglect to tie him up.

To April 8 2015; 020 7452 3000

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