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Treasure Island review at King Street Open Air Arena Bristol

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With its main house closed until April 2012 as part of a £29 million restoration, Bristol Old Vic has wisely adopted an itinerant life to keep the brand name in the public eye.

For this alfresco production of perhaps the best children’s book ever written, though, it has moved no further than an impressive replica pirate ship built on the cobbled street outside its very own Theatre Royal front door.

It is an altogether appropriate setting for an enthralling and spectacular production – the neighbouring Llandoger Trow pub was Robert Louis Stevenson’s inspiration for the Admiral Benbow Inn, scene of Blind Pew’s chilling delivery of the Black Spot to Billy Bones. Director Sally Cookson, familiar for her sure hand with theatre for the very young, moves to an altogether different level with this magical mix of old-fashioned storytelling, clever and at times thrilling staging and highly original songs.

She is determined to balance young Jim Hawkins’ piratical adventures with the adult elements of good versus evil, and is helped here by the wholly convincing way in which Tristan Sturrock’s Long John Silver and Jonny Weldon’s Jim Hawkins bring out the feisty youngster’s divided loyalties between the charismatic pirate and his honest Hispaniola companions.

The company has also been wise in hiring five Bristol-based actors for all the other parts, with Harold Coggins and Craig Edwards shifting seamlessly between dastardly pirates and upright country squires. This is one particularly Jolly Roger that will be flying high over Bristol’s Harbourside this summer.

Production Information

King Street Open Air Arena, Bristol, July 7-August 26

Robert Louis Stevenson
Sally Cookson
Bristol Old Vic
Tristan Sturrock, Jonny Weldon, Saikat Ahamed, Craig Edwards, Howard Coggins, Ian Harris, Zara Ramm
Running time
2hrs 15mins

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