Review: Treasure Island

By John Nathan, November 20, 2008
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Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London SW1

These days, piracy is a word most likely to be used by copyright lawyers. Yet as Ken Ludwig's new stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic swashbuckler took to the stage, a real- life pirate drama was unfolding off the coast of Somalia with the hijacking of a Saudi oil tanker. But if the show is anything to go by, the least interesting of all kinds of pirate activity is the old-fashioned, skull-and-cross-bones kind.

Sean Holmes's production demands attention with a distinctly Tempest-like opening. Seafarers cling to ropes as the evil Captain Flint's cutter crashes through the roaring waves, searching for the map locating his buried treasure.

But that energy has dissipated by the time Jack Hawkins - played with more niceness than vigour by Michael Legge - and his mutinous crew have cast off to find Flint's ill-gotten gains.

Keith Allen's Long John Silver embodies many of the show's limitations. Instead of a peg leg, this Silver has what looks like a wooden robot limb, which Allen drags around the stage with the aide of crutch which he uses to bludgeon people. And yes, like Allen, the evening limps along, occasionally enlivened by swordfights, and with some evocative visuals from Daniel Kluge's video projections which seem like they may have been dug up along with Flint's pieces of eight.

This early seasonal offering gets no where near the sheer excitement contained in Stevenson's book.

(Tel: 0870 901 3356)

Last updated: 10:28am, November 20 2008