Treasure Island review at St Paul’s Church, London – ‘good-natured but muddled’
Pirates to the right, privateers to the left. The trouble with dividing the audience so that everyone misses a couple of scenes is that a sneaking suspicion lingers that others are having more fun elsewhere. As a privateer, I missed the death of posh blabbermouth Squire Trelawney, but witnessed the appearance – missed by the pirates – of tousled, long-abandoned Ben Gunn, both roles played with equal attack by Nick Howard-Brown.
Daniel Winder has made two crucial changes to Robert Louis Stevenson’s cast: Dr Livesey’s wife is the ship’s medic instead of her husband, and Israel Hands is transformed into Isabella, a female pirate from Mexico. Rebecca Todd and Anne-Marie Piazza respectively grab the swashbuckling opportunities with gusto. Harold Addo makes a sincere, wide-eyed Jim and Dafydd Gwyn Howells a humorous and slightly camp Silver. The entire cast plays with piratical flare (except that any real sailor surely pronounces “forecastle” “fo’c’sle”), doubling roles, recruiting eager young apprentice “pirates” and guiding everyone from the Admiral Benbow to the Hispaniola, from there to the stockade and back safely to the inn.
Nevertheless, despite excellent sets – especially the ship in which the action takes place in traverse between bow and stern – the whole enterprise seems a touch muddled, energy lost, tension dissipated in the shifting from one area of St Paul’s gardens to another.