Posts Tagged ‘howard coggins’

A Note from your regular TheatrePunk Lauren…

The theatre world is simply too large for one person to handle, so from now on I shall be sharing the limelight with our new reviewer, Punkette (aka Eliza) – keep an eye out for her reviews dotted throughout the blog from this point on.

Yours Punkishly,

TheatrePunk (aka Lauren)


It’s not often that I go to the theatre and find myself escorted entirely into another world, but those behind Bristol Old Vic’s production of Treasure Island managed to achieve just that. Before the performance begins, the BOV front of house plays host to jolly sea shanties, and pirate hats galore. Indeed, many young (and a significant number of older) audience members made a concerted effort with friends and relatives to come to the theatre in pirate hats, brandishing swords and cutlasses. As I was queuing to present my ticket, I heard a man turn to his friend and ask in an accusatory manner; “So, why did we not come in costume?”

Soon enough, we took our seats in front of the impressive temporary ship that’s been constructed outside, and from the moment I first heard the rumble of sound, slowly growing in volume as a crew of pirates jumped through the windows of the theatre to stand menacingly aboard the deck, my body tingled with excitement and anticipation.

The cast succeed undeniably in bringing Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale to life in front of our eyes, following young Jim Hawkins on his maiden voyage from Bristol and across the seas, aboard a ship inhabited by the gentry and a crew of dangerous pirates, captained by the infamous Long John Silver.

Watching Tristan Sturrock, who takes the role of Long John Silver, is a class in movement, as he bounds with outstanding agility across the stage, using a crutch to replace his missing leg. A difficult part to play, aside from the physical challenges, demanding a mixture of comic ability and emotional vulnerability; I was concerned that LJS would strongly resemble the similarly entertaining and commanding character of Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow, however Sturrock’s creation holds a subtle sense of instability, both morally and mentally, which forms a deeper character and encourages sympathy from the audience, despite his merciless and brutal actions (acknowledged by Sturrock himself as he turns to the audience, having just impressively killed four attackers with his crutch, to say “That’s right, applaud my casual murders”). LJS may be intended as a more ruthless and unsavoury man, but by softening the tone and endearing the character to the audience, it makes his intentions seem ever questionable and intriguing.

The cast all bring a youthful enthusiasm to the production, never more clear than when they take to singing. Benji Bowers’ compositions fit the piece wonderfully, but the vocals by the cast members can be less that pitch perfect. Some moments more notable than others, yet hardly detracting from the atmosphere, I still swayed and tapped my feet; grinning inanely … I can never resist a singsong. The versatility of the actors, and indeed the set was very impressive, with character, costume, scene and location transitions being executed seamlessly, not allowing the audience to feel lost as to where we were in the story. A memorable example of this being when the crew moved, in an instant, from being on board the Hispaniola to the sandy shore of Treasure Island by simply turning to look at the ship anchored offshore.

The opening of the second half held less impact than the first, and indeed the rest of the act seemed slightly slower (although I’m not entirely sure that it wasn’t my mind that had slowed, thanks to the large pie I’d consumed in the interval). This wasn’t an issue however, as it allowed the performers to chew over their words a little more than in act one, where during one of the beginning scenes a couple of Howard Coggins’ lines were a little rushed and sadly missed.

As another charming singsong brought the performance to a close, I looked around to see many members of the audience, both young and old, singing and tapping along, firmly under the spell of the actors.

The team behind this show should be proud of themselves. Their ability to give the young audience members an evening of excitement and magic, while at the same time, pulling some of the older members back into a fantasy world of childhood memories of adventure, is a difficult task, and is rarely achieved.

The exuberant nature of the production literally ‘Shivered me timbers’, and it wasn’t until I left the pirate ship with a large grin on my face, and a heart full of excitement, did I recognise the dull ache in my back from desperately straining in my seat to take part in this wonderful adventure. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.