Based on the classic Robert Louis Stevensen novel and adapted by Ken Ludwig, Treasure Island is a tale of pirates, adventure, treasure and family. Our narrator and protagonist is Jim Hawkins (Jonathon Burt) who, by chance, finds himself in possession of a map and becomes embroiled in a plot to discover hidden treasure. Of course, a band of merry pirates are also after the treasure and mutiny ensues with Jim’s trust sorely tested. Amidst all this swashbuckling is the tale of Jim’s Father’s mysterious death and involvement with the pirates. This is told through anecdotes from Jim himself and partly through his dealings with Long John Silver (Ben Freeman), who considered his father a close friend and was one of the last to see him alive. I confess, I did expect a Darth Vader moment where Long John confesses to being Jim’s Father, but was somewhat pleased it didn’t happen.
After numerous sword and gun fights, the “good guys” discover the treasure and a large majority of the pirates end up dead or marooned on the island – except for Long John, of course. For the audience, most of the play is spent debating whether or not Long John is a good or bad pirate and whether or not anyone will ever find the elusive treasure. While it was admirable the way the cast embraced and attempted to authentically portray pirates, some actors were difficult to understand and therefore I felt some of the humour was lost on the audience. There are only so many ‘Arrrrrgghhhh!’ that a person can take over two hours and you run the risk of it becoming monotonous and more of a parody.
With the largest ensemble cast to ever grace the small stage of the Pavilion Theatre, credit must be given to the crew, in particular the set design was exceptional. Attempting to authentically portray a ship on stage is no small feat and the rigging was a great detail. There is also some cleverly utilised audience involvement which I won’t spoil for you here.
Standout performances included Nick Hoschke as the marooned sailor Ben Gunn whose love of cheese is hilarious, Tim Robertson as Squire Trelawney, a great comic performance, Ben Freeman as Long John Silver, who I believe actually had his leg properly strapped to cause a genuine limp, but it is Jonathon Burt as the young Jim Hawkins who really deserves recognition. With the largest amount of dialogue to remember, Burt presented an articulate and heartfelt performance which had the audience in the palm of his hand.
Treasure Island will enjoy performances at the Pavilion Theatre until February 27th. For tickets and more details, head to: http://paviliontheatre.org.au/