Treasure Island – Octagon Theatre Bolton

The classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale of swashbuckling pirates and buried treasure has voyaged to the Bolton this Christmas season.

Whilst the Octagon Theatre Bolton undergoes its multi-million pound major redevelopment, Treasure Island has docked at the Premier Suite of the University of Bolton Stadium. With a tailor made set, lighting rig and a band of actor-musicians to lead the way the corporate setting soon fizzled into the background (once the Christmas songs had been turned off!) and the magic of theatre took over.

Jim Hawkins (Ami Okumara Jones) is stuck working in the family inn, which sees a number of colourful regulars stop by for an ale (or a rum!). Jim is desperate to ditch the boring and go on an adventure, and the opportunity presents itself when a mysterious maritime man appears (Ben Simon as Blind Pew) and much to the dismay of her mother Jim, Doctor Livesey (Heather Pheonix) and Squire Trelawney (Ben Simon) set off in search of buried treasure. But where there’s treasure, pirates are sure to follow, and so the adventure begins.

6 professional actor musicians lead the cast, along with a team of 12 young people who make up the band of pirates (two teams of 12 alternate performances). The young performers were fantastic, and really made the performance translate directly to the families and children in the audience. The only criticism would be to say that the production seemed to be more centred around the young performers, as if it was a young company production with the addition of professional actors rather than vice versa.

Ebony Feare is Jim’s concerned mother Mrs Hawkins and also later the fearsome Captain Smollett who soon puts the pirates in their place. Jack Lord is fantastic as pantomime-esque Long John Silver, his characterisation and interactions with the young gang of pirates is really testament to his performing ability.

The music and lyrics by Susannah Pearse and directed by Matthew Malone were funny, lively and catchy though it seemed as though the performers might not have been able to hear the music properly at all times as there seemed to be some pitch issues.

There is an oddly placed dream sequence as Ben Gunn (Henry Bauckham) who has been marooned on a desert island longs for cheese – a direct reference from the book – and all the performers enter dressed as cheese, mice (and a cow) that ends in inflatable balls of cheese being thrown into the audience.

Whilst the production was jolly, nicely designed and did take us on adventure, it did feel as though there was something missing. Perhaps the intimacy of the Bolton Octagon would have made this production feel more focused, but the basic direction meant that it didn’t always hit the mark.

There is a lot of fun to be had for young ones at this cheery musical that will lift spirits and make for a lovely family night out to the theatre in Bolton this Christmas.

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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