For the staging of Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse’s musical adaptation of Treasure Island, the Octagon has moved from the cosy intimacy of the Library Theatre to the wide stage of the conference space at Bolton Wanderers’ stadium. The larger scale suits Tim Jackson’s lively production, which boldly evokes a world fit for swashbuckling adventures.
Subtle shifts in James Perkins’ set and Johanna Town’s lighting design quickly establish a change of place, such as when sails, rigging and an aquamarine glow transform the tavern into a ship at sea. From time to time, claps of thunder and incidental music add to the sense of impending peril.
As Jemima ‘Jim’ Hawkins, Ami Okumura Jones is very good at conveying Jim’s anguish when alone in a makeshift boat on a tumultuous sea, though she sometimes appears less comfortable in song. Elsewhere, John Lord’s Long John Silver masterfully takes control of the stage; from his snarling, gruff voice to the curl of his lip, Lord throws himself into the role of pirate master. He brings out the best in the young company, too, with the amusing ‘Mind Your Ps and Qs’ providing one of the musical and lyrical highlights.
Pearse’s score, inspired by a range of genres from sea shanties to calypso and jazz, is capably performed by cast members playing a dizzying array of instruments. Although a surreal song about cheese jars slightly, overall the show triumphs in making Stevenson’s classic tale seem as accessible and entertaining as it is thrilling.