Treasure Island Review National Theatre 2014

  • Our critic's rating:
    Average press rating:
    Thursday, December 11, 2014
    Review by:
    Mark Shenton

    No, this isn't the panto version of the fabled Robert Louis Stevenson story – you can find that at Glasgow's Pavilion Theatre this year – but an altogether more earnest new dramatic version by playwright Bryony Lavery whose play Frozen received its London premiere at the National, before going on to Broadway.

    The first half, alas, passes by in a lot of sluggish exposition and character development as we are introduced to the pirate band, before the second half takes more imaginative flight when the Hispaniola reaches the island.

    But the event is less of about discovering a hidden treasure trove of storytelling and more of a trial overall. After the recent Behind the Beautiful Forevers, currently playing in rep in the same house, the National have unleashed another epic piece of theatremaking, but with similarly diminishing returns.

    The set is undoubtedly the star here in Lizzie Clachan's designs that makes amazing use of the Olivier's massive revolve to bring forth 3D views of the ship's interior and the cave in which the treasure is found in a second.

    The National's now annual tradition of producing a family show has previously yielded one of the theatre's biggest-ever hits in War Horse, but little of the same vivid theatrical imagination is applied to this far more familiar tale.

    It doesn’t help that the able cast that includes a surprisingly subdued Long John Silver from Arthur Darvill and a feisty Jim Hawkins from Patsy Ferran feels a bit tentative on the difficult terrain that the set provides, and it may be that the show will gain confidence as the run proceeds.

    But for now Treasure Island feels like a missed opportunity.


    "Jim Hawkins becomes a girl rebelling against gender roles in this imaginative adaptation, which keeps alive the wit and excitement of the book."
    Michael Billington for The Guardian

    "This is an often ingenious production, with a particularly brilliant passage on navigation by stars...But under 13s might wish it to be more genuinely gripping. Theatrical? Undoubtedly. Dramatic? Less So."
    Quentin Letts for The Daily Mail

    "It looks expensive and boasts some lovely details — including a remote-controlled parrot puppet that perches jauntily on Long John Silver’s shoulder — but lacks real buccaneering vitality."
    Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard

    External links to full reviews from popular press
    The Guardian

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