Review: A Christmas Treasure Island

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There are an awful lot of swashes being buckled in this freewheeling and audacious adaptation by Debbie Oates of Stephenson’s yarn of piracy, treachery on the high seas, and, of course the discovery of a rich seam of treasure.

But there is enormous respect for the author’s original intentions as the novel is transposed to stage, and turned almost completely on its head. The setting is the coastline of Yorkshire and the Hispaniola isn’t about to set sail for the Caribbean, but the lands of the north. And, most significantly, Jim Hawkins is Jem, a feisty teenager feeling more than a little put out by the arrival of her new sibling.

Into Jem’s (Annabel Betts) life comes her a-roving old Uncle David, who on a trip back home, left her a book containing a map which shows an island where pirate treasure is buried. Before you can say “a vast behind”, Jem’s uncle has gathered together a motley crew of seafarers – many of whom are multi-instrumentalists – and the salt spray is in the air.

There is dance, much cavorting, and quite a bit of menace – the last chiefly coming from a splendid Laurie Jamieson as Long John Silver, ever-so-slightly camp, and very definitely not to be messed with. The puppetry is masterful, and there’s a great energy here. It is fun, fast-moving, and full of surprises. What more could you want of a seasonal show?

Hull Truck Theatre, until January 7, 2017.

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