Thursday, 1 May 2008
You're a big parrot, but you're out of shape
Been to see Treasure Island at Newcastle's Theatre Royal. Apparently the show is about to transfer to the West End. It's well worth catching, as this is a very well-paced dramatisation of Stevenson's classic. And yes, it is a kids' book. And there were indeed many small persons for the 7 pm performance on Wednesday. Most of them girls, actually, which is ironic given that RLS described it as a book for boys.
If you know your Treasure Island, you'll be aware that the part of Long John Silver was memorably played by Robert Newton, who did it with maximum 'Aharrr! Jim lad!' This could have put the mockers on the production, had not the thesp playing Silver decided to channel Michael Caine. Was this a tribute to Tyneside, and 'Get Carter'? Whatever the reason, it worked well. The cockney gangster Silver was suitably menacing, but didn't lack roguish charm.
Interestingly, the play was very faithful to the book, right down to Jim Hawkins' killing of Israel Hands. Indeed, the shooting was pretty damn loud, complete with blinding flash from Jim's pistol. In fact, the second act could have been pretty grim, but a bit of comic relief was provided by Ben Gunn, and his dreams of cheese - 'toasted, mostly'. When Jim asked Ben what he'd do with his share of the treasure, a little girl behind me piped up: 'Cheese!'
I suppose a lot of kids, and perhaps their parents, might see Treasure Island as just a short step up from Panto. Well, in a way it is - larger-than-life characters in quaint clothes setting off on an adventure. But it's also quite moral, in a (good) Victorian sense. Jim becomes a man not by killing Israel Hands, as Silver claims, but by keeping his word and letting Silver escape, as Ben Gunn points out.