Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'Treasure Island' at Bristol Old Vic

Hot on the damp heels of Bristol Old Vic’s Christmas show Swallows and Amazons is their equally watery al fresco summer adventure: Treasure Island.

Bristol’s famous theatre may be undergoing some careful renovations inside, but that won’t stop the wonderful Bristol Old Vic from putting on a show. And since they can’t perform indoors, they’ve simply erected an amazing stage and seating arena on the cobbles in the front of their historic venue.

Tucked away behind a seemingly incongruous collection of scaffolding and green baize is a suitably ramshackle corridor that leads you to the temporary stage, complete with ushers wearing pirate hats and with toy parrots on their shoulders, guiding you to your seat and tempting you with a programme (which is well worth the cost – not least for the useful vocabulary sheet, and DIY hat).

Mother Nature blessed us with a balmy July evening, and Bristol’s seagulls swooped and squawked above our heads, adding a real sense of atmosphere to this famous sea-faring adventure. One that was brought to life by a multi-talented cast of just eight, who assume a variety of roles and slip between them with seamless professionalism. The plentiful references to Bristol in speech and song were warmly appreciated by the happy audience, too.

The tale of Jim Hawkins and his quest to find the buried gold on Treasure Island is well known and well loved, and is rightly a much-loved classic. Jim’s confrontations with the legendary Long John Silver have been lapped up by generations – who manage to gloss over the blood shed and greed to enjoy the boy’s own adventure at face value.

All of the cast are fantastic. But the stars of the show are clearly Jim (Jonny Weldon) and the wonderful Long John Silver himself (Tristan Sturrock). And while Jonny is a relative newcomer, a quick glance at the programme reveals why Tristan is as good as he is: he’s been a part of the Kneehigh theatre group for more than 20 years (surely the finest theatre group in England, on which note – I urge you to see their show The Wild Bride at St George’s this October: NB, buy your ticket soon, as last week they’d virtually sold out every night).

This production of Treasure Island includes a few respectful nods to its predecessor Swallows and Amazons (incorporating the musicians into the cast; the passing of the ship at the end), but this only adds to the feeling of inclusivity that the audience feels at joining Bristol Old Vic for yet another stellar production.

We Bristolians are truly lucky to have such an amazing theatre on our doorsteps. And I can’t wait until they reopen their main doors and unveil their brand new theatre inside.

Treasure Island is playing until August 26 – go and see it while you can. You can book tickets in person at the Bristol Old Vic box office, or by buying from their website here.

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