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Treasure Island at the National Theatre

Published 11 December 2014

What’s it all about?

Devilish pirates, turbulent seas, a treasure map full of promise, golden jewels and Jim – short for Jemima – the girl who finds herself bang in the centre of all the excitement and is taking families along for the (boat)ride at the National Theatre this Christmas.

In Polly Findlay’s magic-packed production of the classic story – given a refresh for the stage by the talented Bryony Lavery – the tale is brought to sparkling life with Lizzie Clachan’s imaginative design in which a whale bone-like ship frame dominates the stage.

As we are transported to the high seas, the Olivier’s drum revolve is on hand for a surprising rotation of sets that reveals the boat’s cosy, oil lamp lit rooms and finally, following a healthy dose of adventure, storms, deception and tyranny, the terrifyingly uninviting island…

Who’s in it?

A superb Patsy Ferran leads a brilliantly eccentric line-up of characters as Jim, her eyes full of wonder and astonishment as she leaves her small world in search of treasure. Amusingly precocious but equally earnest, she makes a perfect narrator, as likeable as she is strong-willed.

Doctor Who and Broadchurch’s Arthur Darvill brings an air of star quality to proceedings as the infamous Long John Silver. There are no “arghhh” or “me hearties” to be found in this production, giving Darvill the chance to make the role his own, which he does brilliantly, painting the picture of a very complicated villain indeed. Boasting a charming air and – quite possibly – some sociopathic tendencies, you never quite know if he’s about to hug someone or shank them. But with his magnetic energy and silver tongue, you might just find yourself wanting to be on his team…

What did the kids like best?

From the looks of wicked glee on their faces every time a tattooed brutish pirate or wig-wearing bumbling captain met a grisly end, the imaginative variety of sudden deaths was clearly a highlight.

As an ever so slightly older member of the audience, the National Theatre bringing the night sky inside was a moment of pure magic. Of course, the animatronic parrot didn’t hurt either.

In a nutshell?

Take to the high seas this Christmas for a grisly, fun-packed adventure with Polly Findlay’s witty take on a very classic family tale.

Will my little one like it?

When the moral of the story is essentially that adults are rubbish and it is the child who must save the day, you can guarantee they will. Did I mention the animatronic parrot?

Treasure Island is booking at the National Theatre until 8 April. You can book tickets through us here.

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