Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

cast f treasure Island

A scurvy crew, a treasure chest, a bloke in a dress and a parrot set for a voyage of fun in search of pirate gold. Pictures Nigel Espley.

Treasure Island

Dudley Little Theatre


YO HO HO and a bottle of rum . . . well a bottle of J2O really as I had a galleon to drive home when we reached dry land again, but you get the idea, me hearties.

Dudley Little Theatre has produced a splendidly rollicking alternative to a traditional panto in Phil Willmott’s swashbuckling adaptation of Treasure Island . . . oh yes they have!!!!!

The plot might not be quiet as Robert Louis Stevenson might have remembered it but what the heck, its lively and its fun opening with the scourge of the seas and scum of waterfront inns around the world, or cast as we know them, bursting through doors and scaring the living wits out of the landlubbing audience.

The drunken revelry of the pirates was quite splendid and, to their credit, maintained for the entire production. Our first encounter was with Meg Trueblood, the landlady(ish) of The Shipwright’s Arms in Southark.

A fine figure of a woman, if you like beards that is, played by Tony Stamp who did a fine job of engaging the sparse audience with witty banter from the off.

There are few sights as sad as a poorly attended theatre offering scant reward for a more than decent production which is the result of a lot of hard work and jim and sivereffort. Hopefully a vile night of wind and rain was the cause for empty seats and audiences, and weather, will improve as the week goes on.

But back to the watering hole for reprobates where clean cut, well spoken, naïve Jim Hawkins, played with a nice air of innocence by Charles Adey, arrives looking for a crew of honest, God-fearing etc. sailors for an expedition. Told you the lad was naïve.

And running the expedition is Lady, slap me thighs and shiver me timbers, Jacqueline Trelawney played with bravado and leather trousers by Julie Bywater.

Jim Hawkins (Charles Adey) and Long John Silver (James Silvers)

She and Jim lad, (couldn’t resist that) then tell the tale of Billy Bones, played, as is the remarkably similar looking pirate George Merry, by Ben Martin Savage who manages the permanent vacant stare of a psychopath even when he is happy.

Bones is sought by Blind Pugh, played by Andrew Rock in a fetching pair of what appear to be red welding goggles, along with Black Dog, a sort of man cum shaggy Rottweiler played by Ellis Daker, who is also pirate Harry Flash.

From this play within a play we discover the existence of Captain Flint’s treasure map and the dice is cast with boring, stuffed shirt Capt Obadiah Smollett, played in prim and proper fashion by Mike Kelly, leading the expedition ostensibly to hunt for butterflies on Treasure Island under the watchful eye of Lady Trelawney’s companion Miss Lucinda Livesey, played in an unworldly way by Claire Hetherington. Butterflies . . . or wealth beyond your dreams? She could be on a loser there.

We meet the foppish pirate, all ruff rather than rough, Gentleman Nathaniel Crisp, played by Phil Sheffield, who also led the team creating the fine swashbuckling costumes, and come across the likes of Israel Hands (Robert Gotch), Piccadilly Poll (Jean Potter), Shoreditch Sal (Chris Ridgeway), Nightingale Nell (Louise Reed) and Andrew Harding, or at least his arm, as Capt Flint the parrot.

Then there was the truly frightening Cheng I Sao played by Karen Whittingham, such a sweet girl in All My Sons a couple of months ago. Just shows what can happen to a girl if you get in with the wrong crowd.

Then the moment we have all been waiting for – the entrance of Long John Silver where James Silvers – clever bit a nameBen and Jim casting there – has the hardest job of all. For people of a certain age Long John Silver and Robert Newton are one and the same, Jim lad, but Silvers does a fine job of portraying the cunning old pirate who would befriend – or betray - angels or devils for just as long as there was something in it for him.

Loony cheese fantasist Ben Gunn (Andrew Rock) with Jim Hawkins

Director Rebecca Clee eschewed the usual wooden leg from the knee down – with a strange bit sticking out behind like a tail that has lost it’s way – for a sort of bionic hydraulic affair which looked like it had been knocked up by JCB.

It worked reasonably well and, as one who knows, is much less tiring and painful than having a leg strapped up behind.

Finally, we have the return of Andrew Rock, this time as the mad as a hatter Ben Gunn, a seafarer with salt in his veins, who, from his accent, must have been press ganged from some waterfront dive on the dockside at . . . Dudley Port.

His appearance to rescue the captured Jim Hawkins leads up to the show’s big song and dance cabaret number, I only have Eyes for You, involving most of the cast which, in truth, is all a bit cheesey – no really, it was cheesey, mainly cheddar from the looks of it. Gunn, abandoned on Treasure Island has been alone and fantasising about cheese for years – obviously he had no internet connection if that is all he fantasised about as a bloke alone, but we will let that pass

The Dudley team have managed a flexible set which changes quickly from pub, to lodging house to the good ship Hispaniola - loved the rope and flag decked mast descending from the heavens – and Mary O’Toole’s choreography is simple and effective while Ray Curran as musical director . . . and complete band apart from some drumming on stage . . . did a splendid job on the keyboard.

It might not be panto as we know it, Jim lad, although we did have a young girl in the audience called up to help out at one point, Katy in this instance, who left with a huge gold coin, with a suspicion of chocolate within, as her prize.

But it was certainly fun, silly, at times downright daft, and full to the gunnels with enthusiasm and its own infectious charm. At the end you ventured out into the rain with a smile on your face and, when it comes to the Panto season, which is how Treasure Island should be judged, you can’t ask for more than that. To 05-12-15

Roger Clarke


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