If you are looking for family entertainment that will brighten the spirits and enchant young audiences then look no further than Iris Theatre’s spirited production of Treasure Island. 

Treasure Island 5 Photo Hannah Barton
Anne-Marie Piazza and Dominic Garfield in Treasure Island. Photograph by Hannah Barton. 

“Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” is definitely a tune that you will leave the atmospheric St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden singing, after watching this flamboyant and imaginative production of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate tale.

Starting inside the church before guiding audiences to other outdoor scenes, the story follows the adventures of Jim Hawkins and crew on search of Captain Flint’s treasure – complete with sword fights, a number of twists and turns along the way and of course memorable characters.

Directed and written for the stage by Daniel Winder, the production is wonderfully imaginative in terms of the staging that audiences young and old genuinely feel as though they are swept away to exotic lands – even if the reality is you are sitting outside on a damp London evening. This is down in part to the wonderful set design by Valentina Turtur, which is both practical and creative, in particular the spectacular ship which allows the audience to sit in the centre and completely absorb what is happening.

The other reason that audiences feel as though they are part of the story is the wonderful audience engagement – not too intrusive to make people feel uncomfortable, but just enough to suggest that they are very much part of making the show work.

Meanwhile, the cast themselves have plenty of energy and really get themselves involved in the variety of roles. Dominic Garfield in particular as Black Dog has a Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow appeal about him – although perhaps slightly less smart. He staggers around convincingly, leading audiences from place to place and really gets them enthusiastic and involved.

Harold Addo, making his professional debut as Jim Hawkins is suitably brave and enthusiastic, jumping from one place to the next- but takes a little bit of time to convince the audience that his character wants to go on this dangerous journey, yet there is definite potential there.

Dafydd Gwyn Howells is suitably menacing as Long John Silver – but who turns out to have some morals in the end, while Anne-Marie Piazza is wonderfully feisty as the fearsome Isabella Hands.

One of the issues  is that by dividing the cast into pirates and privateers, we do miss the other half of the story when we are divided as the pirates head to the island and the privateers are left on the ship, so there are some circumstances that are missed – even though we aren’t all separated for long. The only other slight flaw is the acoustics – both inside and outside, which can make it hard to hear exactly what is going on in places, particularly on the ship when half the cast are one side and the other half are on the opposite side.

These minor points aside, this production is enchanting if a little bit creepy in places such as during the Davy Jones references or Blind Pew coming to find Captain Billy Bones, with a lot of atmospheric smoke helping to add to the eeriness of the scene.

A true testament of how successful a show like this is, is to watch the children’s reactions – and all looked enraptured with what they were seeing. It is theatre like this that will hopefully inspire other potential young actors of the future. Enchanting, engaging and entertaining.

Iris theatre’s production of Treasure Island will play at St Paul’s Church until the 28th August. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://iristheatre.com/event/treasure-island/

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