The first drops of rain fell just as the cast said their final farewells and once more, the gamble, of holding an open air production in the middle of an English summer, paid off.
Director Sally Cookson’s audacious idea to perform the most Bristolian of plays, Treasure Island, outside, and facing the Llandoger Trow, where Robert Louis Stevenson purportedly got the idea for the play, was inspired.
The crew swing on to the stage on ropes and they climb on and off the levels of the pirate ship built against the front of the Bristol Old Vic. There isn’t space inside the historic theatre while it’s being renovated so they have taken their work to the streets.
The story has Bristol as much of its setting and it is with delight that we watch Jim run off as he is bid to go down King Street and Welsh Back to the Spy Glass. The directions are to the Hole in the Wall which some say is the location of the original pub.
The gulls squak overhead as a reminder that the weather is an additional bit of scenery but it holds up as we sail off on the Hispaniola. Some changes to the background and we are at the ‘beautiful, beyond dreams’ Samoan island, Treasure Island.
Tristan Sturrock, as Long John Silver, seemed to channel a madness and charm that made the character all his own. He shone brightly as one of the best things about the 2010 production of Juliet and Her Romeo and he was a brilliant choice to bring one of the most well known pirates to life.
Howard Coggins’ acting also packed a punch with his initial rum soaked portrayal of Captain Billy Bones and then a surprising transformation into squealing Squire Trelawney. Eight actors fluidly changed roles and costumes and Saikat Ahamed gave the most fantastic performance as Ben Gunn, marooned on the island for three years.
It is hard to believe that anything could rival the Old Vic’s winter production of Swallows and Amazons but Treasure Island seems to have done it.
This most wonderful production is about as close as you will get to a true pirate adventure. It is simply superb.
Review by Joanna Papageorgiou
Treasure Island is being performed in the open air on King Street outside the Bristol Old Vic until August 26. Visit here for more information.