Thursday, January 22, 2015

adaptation: Treasure Island adapted for the stage by Bryony Lavery

I haven't read Treasure Island since I was a child and I'm really not all that keen on pirates, but I went to see the Royal National Theatre's live broadcast of Treasure Island adapted by Bryony Lavery today.1 I'm glad that I did because I really enjoyed the play.

The set is dynamic, growing and changing with the story, and it features a lovely planetarium-style sky.  There's a character that appears at key points to play the fiddle and lead the sea shanties that help set the tone for the play before the ship even appears.

As one would expect (especially given the promotional material for the play), there's a parrot.  What's less expected is that "Captain Flint" doesn't stay perched on the shoulder of Arthur Darvill's2 Long John Silver, parroting his lines. He's actually an active player in the story and at times seems to fly around the theatre (in the movie theater this was accomplished by how the sound effects were dispensed from different speakers in turn).

There are some female pirates (and a lady doctor) as well as a couple of other characters that seem to have been added for additional comic relief, but the most unique feature of the adaptation is that Lavery imagines Jim Hawkins as a girl child rather than a boy.  And actress Patsy Ferran, who plays Jemima, is fantastic in the role, lithe and expressive. And, her costume and makeup lend her an androgyny that allows her to read male at the opening of the play when viewers are expecting a male protagonist and assists her in maintaining the illusion that Jim is a child.
  1. I'm a huge fan of these live performances shown in movie theaters and highly recommend them. In two different movie houses, I've seen two ballets, an opera, an operetta, and now a play.  In my experience, the Royal Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera's live productions offer more in the way of added value ("pre-game" and intermission interviews, peeks behind the scenes, and other interesting content) than the Royal National Theatre.
  2. Rory from Doctor Who. He's fine as Long John Silver, but not outstanding.
disclosure: I paid for my own ticket to see this show, but got a discounted rate because I'm a member of the non-profit that runs the art house-type theater where I saw it.

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