Treasure Island – Review – Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

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By Charlotte Oliver, December 2019

For the past three Christmases, a crack team of theatre experts at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough have produced hugely entertaining family shows – and their seasonal offering this year is better than ever!

From the moment the lights go up on Treasure Island the audience is swept along on an exciting voyage of silliness and joy with Jim Hawkins, as he searches for buried treasure and encounters some remarkable individuals (and a giant mollusc) along the way.

Nick Lane’s script is tight and funny, clearly delighting the grown-ups as much as the younger audience members. It is peppered with affectionate references to Scarborough and crammed full of wind-related jokes, which particularly appealed to my nine-year old co-reviewer.

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Simon Slater has created some wonderfully silly and catchy songs that are performed live by the cast on a wide variety of instruments. A particular highlight is Ben Gunn’s show-stopping number about cheese, which I can confirm resonated with many of the adults in the audience.

The cast of five actor-musicians (Alice Blundell, Niall Ransome, Ben Tolley, Marcquelle Ward and Scarlet Wilderink) give energetic and accomplished performances as they sing, dance, play and act their way through a raft of entertaining characters, from classic villain Long John Silver via punk pirates to the hilariously eccentric Ben Gunn. They even perform some surprisingly expressive puppetry, which adds an extra layer of hilarity throughout the show.

treasure island review stephen joseph theatre scarborough december 2019 puppet

“Quick-paced and dynamic”

Thanks to inspired work from Lighting Designer Paul Stear and Designer Helen Coyston, the simple set draws the audience straight into the heart of the action. We are transported from a pub to a ship on stormy seas and beyond. Director Erin Carter has done a brilliant job of keeping the actors’ movement around the stage quick-paced and dynamic – no simple feat given that the production is staged in the round. Special mention must go to the exhilarating scene when the Hispaniola ship is prepared to set sail. What a perfect moment of theatre!

Treasure Island offers a clever, modern take on the traditional pantomime. The well-loved opportunity for noisy audience participation is very much present (‘Oh no it isn’t!’ ‘Oh yes it is!’); there are jokes, slapstick moments, goodies, baddies, and the all-important happy ending.

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“Absolute gem”

However, we are spared the tasteless double entendres that so many pantomimes continue to peddle, and, somewhat refreshingly, it is a woman who cross-dresses here, cunningly disguising herself as a man with the aid of a very obvious fake moustache.

This production is an absolute gem which delivers amusement and delight in spades. Long may this talented team from the SJT work together to bring us such Christmas gifts. My advice would be to book your tickets ASAP – don’t let this ship set sail without you!


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