Review: Treasure Island at The Dukes, Lancaster

 Cast of Treasure Island (promo image)

“This was the bestest play ever in the world. Even better than Shrek. Can we come again tomorrow?”

Words of praise indeed, uttered as they were by a young lady aged around seven, as she exited the Dukes theatre on Friday night.

And she was not the only small person who was a fan.

William and James (aged six and five who asked particularly to have their names in this review) could not contain their excitement at the pirate-y performance of Treasure Island, this year’s Christmas play.

Despite being indisputably up past their bedtime they were captivated throughout, doing their best impression of Meerkats as they bobbed their heads up and down with excitement, shrieking with laughter during fight scenes and calling out in surprise at the twists and turns.

But what about the big people?

This year’s Dukes production, adapted by Coronation Street writer Debbie Oates, is the first ever Christmas play to be held in the round.

It is a gamble but an incredibly successful one, the round element allowing the audience to be a part of the action whilst cleverly staged to juggle and indeed, take advantage of, the many prop conundrums this type of play can encounter.

The theatricals began even as the audience filtered in to take their seats.

Filing through atmospheric, dark, corridors into the auditorium our tickets were taken by pirates and the stage was set.

The multi-talented cast – several of the six play a number of roles and perform with musical instruments – captivate from the start with the Treasure Island-inspired tale of a young girl from Morecambe Bay whisked into a treasure hunt on the good ship Hispaniola after the disrupting birth of her new sister.

Add in a few sing-songs (The songs are cool – William) the activities of a reprobate puppet cat (The cat is awesome – William) and Long John Silver’s puppet parrot and they were on to a winner.

Real praise for this performance goes to Joe Sumsion, whose ingenious direction succeeds where others elsewhere have failed.

This is a play which reaches out to everyone big and small.

The interwoven layers of humour tickle all ages and just the right amount of slapstick and audience involvement is applied for a feel-good fantasy without the need to cheapen with too much panto-esqe bawdiness.

The localisation of the performance for a Lancaster audience also adds to the feeling of inclusion.

The Silverdale Hoard, Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese and Asda all get a mention…and a laugh.

But what makes this performance so successful is undoubtedly the actors.

Former Waterloo Road’s Nisa Cole shines as Jem Hawkins but the company as a whole work together seamlessly, juggling scenes and scenery to tell the story with implausible energy, impeccably rehearsed finesse and a twinkle in their eyes.

As William so accurately summed up “Very brilliant.”

A proper local Lancashire triumph.

First appeared Lancaster Guardian. Click HERE