TREASURE ISLAND – St. Paul’s Covent Garden, London.
Yo-ho-ho with the best of them at Iris Theatre’s second summer production, a boisterous version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The usual talent and off the cuff humour that has marked out Irish performances over the years is on display here, as well as one of the most ambitious sets to be placed in the gardens of St. Paul’s. A great evening out, however, thanks to a brave and interesting choice,. None of the audience get to see the full play.
Stevenson’s work tells us a rollicking story of a boy, Jim Hawkins,who finds a treasure map in a dead man’s chest and sets off on a real adventure to find his lost gold. He is accompanied by the local aristocrat, Squire Trelawney and the doctor Mrs. Livesey. Unfortunately, as expected, the dead pirate’s treasure was not strictly his, and a band of ne’er-do-wells led by fearful Quartermaster Long John Silver. They hoodwink the captain of Jim’s adventure ship and try to make sure they alone get the treasure. Mutiny on the seas, a desert island, the original map where X marked the spot, it’s the story that launched a thousand others, the original and probably the best.
It’s clearly fine material for a play, giving the company a rich character set allowing the cast to have a lot of fun. As Jim, we’re looking at a great professional debut from Harold Addo, strong accent and credible performance as someone who left home a boy and came back a man of adventure. Dafydd Gwyn Howells is a lovely Long John Silver. Can’t say he’s menacing, but a very funny, camp pirate leader with a speciality in parrot transportation and double entendre fits in perfectly here. Notable supporting performances as the Black Dog from Dominic Garfield (adding a whiff of real wildness to the show) and Rebecca Todd as Mrs Livesey (brave, and the smartest of the bunch) as well as fine gambolling efforts from the rest help to inject real energy and flourish to the show.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to judge all the performances. In a very well intentioned, and actually quite fun, turn, the audience is split into pirates and privateers and each goes their separate ways after the mutiny on the Hispaniola. While the pirates are scheming about treasure and working out how to get home with it, the good side are off doing… something else. Coming together briefly at a parlay, we’re then split again to carry on our separate narratives. Joined up finally, we’re presented with evidence and final stages of plotting and hi-jinks (all of which seemed quite fun) but no idea how we got there. It’s great for audience participation, and it’s a fine conceit to get people immersed in the show, but when it cuts out large sections of the play it doesn’t quite work.
Swaggering around the excellent sets (designed by Valentina Turtur) and getting in the piratical way is a fun evening, but unfortunately without such a large chunk of the play it feels incomplete.
By Karl O’Doherty