I’m not total philistine; I have read some of the classic novels. However, Treasure Island is on the list of the many that I haven’t. So I was doubly excited to go to see Thornden’s Schools’ production of Treasure Island on Friday (10 February). Partly to top up my “blagger’s guide to the classics”, but mainly for the chance to see another of the school’s productions.
The production didn’t disappoint on either count. It was a short performance – little more than forty minutes in each act – but was packed with demonstrations of the skills of the cast and the technical skills of the backstage crew.
In the first act, Jim Hawkins assembled the ramshackle and disorderly crew during a visit to The Shipwright’s Arms. This was fun and raucous, with good interaction between the cast as we were introduced to the various characters.
Jim told the tale of his acquisition of the treasure map through a flashback, where the arrival of Billy Bones, Blind Pugh and Black Dog brought a sinister feel to the scene.
Soon we were back in the pub (a tragic end to the flashback having been averted thanks to the timely arrival of Lady Trelawney). A battle of the sexes argument was decided with a tug-of-war. The result was as close as a certain rugby match played in Cardiff the following day, but the women won and earned their place on the voyage (even if they were helped by a willing volunteer from the audience).
The act closed with a song from Nightingale Nell – unaccompanied, yet pitch perfect – and a display by the Pulse Dancers. In reviews of previous productions, I have written about the careful choreography of the fight scenes. This display came from the opposite angle – it was a dance routine choregraphed to look like a fight. And it was really, really good – possibly a harbinger of what was to come later.
In the second act, the ship arrived at the island. The departure of a party to find the treasure gave the mutinous contingent, under the command of Long John Silver took control of the ship.
Speaking of Long John Silver reminds me that everyone (even those who have never read the book) knows two things about Long John Silver. One is that he had one leg, and the other is that he had a parrot named Captain Flint. Our Long John Silver also had a convincing wooden leg, and a puppet parrot – designed into the costume of a younger member of the cast who carried it round the stage in an effective representation of flight.
Ben Gunn appeared (for the second time – we’d seen him standed on the island, when we came into the auditorium for the start of the show), craving cheese. His cheese delirium gave the opportunity for more of the school’s talent. The “Dairy Leas”, “Gouda Dudes” and “Baby Belles” (don’t blame me for the puns – I’m only writing what I saw) performed more clever and skilled routines. This, for me, was the highlight of what was already an extremely entertaining production. Ben Gunn took part in the routines with perfect timing – yet managed to look bemused and confused throughout. An excellent piece of acting.
All in all, a most entertaining and enjoyable evening out. This was a GCSE assessment performance for some of the cast and crew. If all school productions are as good as Thornden’s, being a GCSE drama assessor must be one of the most coveted jobs in the business!