Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale is given a family-friendly and wonderfully whimsical adaptation in this new production by Fourth Monkey. Renowned for their physical theatre work, here the company have tailored their style to their audience, providing an ultimately entertaining if unchallenging hour of theatre.
The separation of the actors does allow for some great comical moments to creep in; references to modern culture and theatre in-jokes that would be out of place in a traditional retelling help to bring the show to life.
The show looks to give a different angle to the well known and well trodden story from the outset, with the cast assembling onstage out of character, showing us that what we are watching is a play and that they are actors telling a story. This is a refreshing and frank change from the normal form of children’s shows, at times enhancing the effect and comedy of the show by putting the audience on their level and letting them in on their joke. This technique does lead to moments of tension in the piece though, with the flow between the action and the breaking of the fourth wall stilting the production at points and often feeling more awkward than funny.
The separation of the actors does allow for some great comical moments to creep in; references to modern culture and theatre in-jokes that would be entirely out of place in a more traditional retelling help to bring the show to life. Pitch-perfect gags about that scene from Titanic, Mission: Impossible and the many, many varieties of cheese are clever enough to entertain the adults and irreverent enough to delight the kids.
The moments in which the production really shines are in the ensemble sequences and tableaus created in vivid scenic tapestries of light, sound and movement on stage. From the assembled seamen getting progressively drunk and being swayed back and forth hypnotically by the ebbing of the sea to the epic battle on the beaches between the ship’s crew and the pirates, there is a palpable magic that appears when the ensemble move as one. These points of enchanting action really carry the piece - oh, and the actress who was a door for the first half of the show. Absolutely brilliant.
While collectively stunning, at times the individual performances seem to wander from the piece, distracting viewers from the story being told. This, paired with the direct addresses to the audience, occasionally leads to the momentum of the production being lost, upsetting the fascination of the crowd.
The Airplane and Naked Gun-type silliness of humour in the show will have kids and parents giggling left, right and centre; the madcap antics of the ensemble onstage are delightfully entertaining more often than not. There is, however, a disparity between some of the performers who throw themselves wholeheartedly into the silliness of the production and some who feel like they are holding back. An enjoyable piece of inventive theatre, Treasure Island goes a long way towards creating a living and breathing land of enchantment for the audience; a little more cohesion in the cast would cement this no end and create a great piece of children’s theatre.