Treasure Island * * *
at the Old Rep, Station Street
Review by Shahid Naqvi
What with the soaraway success of Pirates of the Caribbean, Birmingham Stage Company's choice of Treasure Island as its festive family show should prove a real crowd-puller.
This adaptation seeks to remain more true to the Robert Louis Stevenson classic novel than the usual panto treatment it gets this time of year. And there's plenty of swashbuckling action to be had too, which should please children.
At the heart of any good adaptation of Treasure Island is the twisted father-and-son like relationship between cabin boy Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver.
Silver is surely one of the all time classic figures of literature and in many ways - to excuse the pun - the crutch upon which the whole story rests.
Here the role is played by BAFTA-nominated actor Gavin Robertson as a Cockney ruffian that would not look out of place on the terraces of a Millwall football match. The paths of our hobbling anti-hero and young Hawkins' cross when they both end up on the same ship in search of treasure.
The rest of the plot everyone knows. The play contrasts the high ideals and morality of Hawkins against the cynical cruelty and selfishly-motivated pirate crew.
But it also attempts to depict him as a weak, naive and snivelling youth who in the end redeems himself through acts of bravery and emerges a man.
Silver plays a pivotal role in this, though more through his acts of betrayal that serve to ignite Hawkins' sense of injustice.
It's a good, solid show with an atmospheric set and costumes and a competent cast. But by playing it straight, there are few laughs in it, which youngsters in particular may miss.
Also, the relationship between Silver and Hawkins feels slightly unconvincing due, maybe, to a failure to build it up sufficiently in the first half.
The play has only just started its run and on the afternoon we saw it was missing a vital piece of set which hadn't yet been fire-proofed. Hopefully its arrival this week will help ignite a bit more spark into the production.
* Running time: Two hours. Until Feb 8.