Review: Treasure Island at Newcastle Theatre Royal
Treasure Island – Theatre Royal, Newcastle
5th April 2023
You may know the story of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, but you have never seen it like this. The wonderful cast of Le Navet Bete present the story in what I can only describe as pantomime 2.0 and it works particularly well.
There is a dark and dramatic opening which sees pirates burying treasure on a remote island and we are left wondering how the story will pan out right up until the end. The staging is very clever with a raised plinth to provide an island, pub, and the ship in various points during the action. The lighting adds ominous feels where the narrative requires it.
After the prologue we are introduced to the hero of the piece, 14-year-old (not really) Jim Hawkins who is living with his aunt in her pub somewhere vaguely near Bristol. By fair means or foul, Jim ends up taking a fantastic voyage to the Caribbean and Treasure Island, also known as Skeleton Islandto seek his fortune and also to find love in a very unexpected place along the way.
I described this as pantomime 2.0 because it very much is a pantomime, with one stock pantomime sketch which is very cleverly manoeuvred but it is so much more than that. The scenes have obviously been carefully conceived by the extremely hardworking cast, I would suggest in a workshop style, to give some incredible humour to the story and some laugh out loud moments which the large audience at The Theatre Royal really enjoyed.
The opening to act two is reminiscent of a farce and I do not think this company would be offended to be likened to Mischief Theatre but I will say no more about that for fear of spoilers. There is some well placed original music in the show and naughty bits both visually and in the script which keeps the adults entertained throughout without being over the top for the children in what is a family show. There is some audience participation too which the crowd tonight was happy to lap up.
I was delighted to meet the whole cast after the production and they were very complimentary about the wonderful Theatre Royal both as a venue and the fabulous welcome they received from everyone. In return, I have to compliment the entire company on a brilliantly conceived production and the amount of work that has obviously brought this show to the stage and the passion and effort they put into their performance.
Treasure Island is much more than just a pantomime because it offers all the elements of this traditional art form but takes it to the next level in terms of the thought that has gone into it and the care and attention to appeal to ages from the wee tots right up to the older members of the audience who laughed throughout at this hilarious and zany production.
Treasure Island is only playing at The Theatre Royal, Newcastle until 6th April 2023 so there is only tonight left to see this production, but I am delighted to be told that they are devising a new show based on the Legend of King Arthur which I am very much looking forward to and the tour of Treasure Island and other productions continue at various dates and places in the UK.
Matt Freeman – mermaid, blue Peter etc
Nick Bunt- Jim Hawkins
Al Dunn- Long John
Simon Burbage – Captain Birdseye
Stage manager- Fi Russell
Design – Fi Russell
Director – John Nicholson
Composer- Peter Coyte
More info at
– Stephen Stokoe
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