12th June 2021
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Treasure Island by the National Theatre

Treasure Island
By Stephen Dean - Ramblings of a Techie
All photos by Johan Persson

I have heard about the National Theatre doing broadcasts of some of their productions, but this is the first time I have actually watched one. Boy was I impressed. I remember reading Treasure Island as a kid many moons ago.  So, with trepidation, I sat down to watch this, and was so glad that I did. This great story has been beautifully crafted and staged. It captures the essence of the story and presents a great yarn for the whole family to enjoy. There is humour and dark moments to give you a nice rollicking story. The direction by Polly Findlay is great. The adaption of the Stevenson book by Bryony Lavery remains true to the story.

From a technical point, the show has the mix right, it does not overwhelm the story. The set is a living part of the show.

The design by Lizzie Clachan is beautiful and the elements of old ships are so well done, with real sailing rigging used to great effect.

Treasure Island

The scene changes performed to sea shanties had the cast moving hauling and pushing a set that was incredibly versatile. The design of the set was just beautiful. It transformed from Jim’s home to a pirate ship to an island in what was to my mind a poetic motion. The feeling of an old sailing ship was captured. The scene changes are part of the story, it adds to the whole experience.

The lighting design by Bruno Poet is just beautiful. It builds the mood and complements the story.

The use of follow spots, which I am not a great fan of, especially in a play, is actually a revelation. The soft highlighting of the main character is a great use of them, without drawing attention to them. With the style of the set, it makes more sense than having a whole range of specials and allows a bit of movement space for Jim to move in the space organically. The use of colour is used in a way that builds on the story. But what is really cool from a tech point of view and also adds an enchanting element for the audience is the stars of the night sky. As we know sailors often used the stars to navigate around the globe and here the starscape that has been created also does the same thing. The creation of the constellations was a nice touch.

Treasure Island

There was a whole load of technical elements in the show, some small and some big, but they all come together to support the storyline. Everything gels into a great piece of theatre. You can tell that the team has worked well together to make a piece of theatre magic.

Everything from the real fire, to the revolving set that transforms into a two-storey ship and then melds into Treasure Island itself. The ropes for the rigging operated by the cast to transform to a sailing ship. The parrot is a great touch as well.

This is worthy of watching repeatedly. I am hoping the National Theatre will show it again.

It is a good rollicking piece of theatre that will captivate the audience. Kids and adults will all love this great show.


Jim Hawkins: Patsy Ferran
Grandma: Gillian Hanna
Bill Bones: Aidan Kelly
Dr Livesey: Alexandra Maher
Squire Trelawny/Voice of the Parrot: Nick Fletcher
Mrs Crossley: Alexandra Maher
Red Ruth: Heather Dutton
Job Anderson: Raj Bajaj
Silent Sue: Lena Kaur
Black Dog: Daniel Coonan
Blind Pew: David Sterne
Captain Smollett: Paul Dodds
Long John Silver: Arthur Darvill
Lucky Mickey: Jonathan Livingstone
Joan the Goat: Claire-Louise Cordwell
Israel Hands: Angela de Castro
Dick the Dandy: David Langham
Killigrew the Kind: Alastair Parker
George Badger: Oliver Birch
Grey: Tim Samuels
Ben Gunn: Joshua James
Shanty Singer: Roger Wilson
Parrot (Captain Flint): Ben Thompson

Production team

Director: Polly Findlay
Adaption: Bryony Lavery
Designer: Lizzie Clachan
Lighting Designer: Bruno Poet
Composer: John Tams
Fight Director: Bret Yount
Movement Director: Jack Murphy
Music and Sound Designer: Dan Jones
Illusions: Chris Fisher
Comedy Consultant: Clive Mendus
Creative Associate: Carolina Valdésste


Published in Collaboration with Ramblings of a Techie

Also by Stephen Dean:

Theatres: Standard Lighting Rig or Not?

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