The first of two Junior Plays to be staged in the VCT this term – ‘Treasure Island’ – was not only an excellent opportunity for students to showcase their acting ability, it was also a welcome tonic to the collective anxiety that pervades the Cranleigh campus during exam season.
Stevenson’s iconic novel ‘Treasure Island’ is often characterised as an archetypal boys’ adventure story; however, Phil Willmott’s adaptation of the classical novel restores the gender balance whilst still protecting the narrative’s excitement. Under the direction of Emily Sinclair, the Vivien Cox Theatre was imaginatively transformed into a pirate ship by the extremely talented Mark Jenkins. The set really came to life when the voyage began and the audience very much felt as if they were on board the ship, privy to discussions of money, mutiny and murder.
The audience were kept on the edge of their seats as the actors, armed with weapons, ventured into the audience and some were even called upon to help with the tug of war. At the centre of the lively ensemble was Toby Escolme as the young Jim Hawkins, stuck in the unenviable limbo between adolescence and adulthood. Toby brought a certain bashfulness to the role, endearing him to the audience.
Autumn Brown’s charming portrayal of the admirable Lady Jacqueline Trelawney shimmered with excitement. She was beautifully complemented by Elsa Hardcastle as the scientifically-minded Miss Lucinda Livesy whose ardent passion for discovery was at times very humorous. Toni Taor’s interpretation of the bolshy Meg Trueblood showed her acting talent. Her performance reached its zenith in a stirring speech about equality and the treatment of women which certainly gave the audience food for thought. All three girls demonstrated that bravery and daring are not simply a male prerogative.
Fifi Robinson was brilliant as the immodest and glamorous Pirate Queen. Max St John’s humorous portrayal of the aristocratic Captain Smollett’s was wonderful; his mild pomposity elicited spells of laughter from the audience.
I’m sure it was challenging to cast the most famous pirate in English literature. However, Mark Jamieson was excellent as the iconic villain Long John Silver. His performance was laced with treachery and avarice; he certainly did the character justice.
The principals’ performances were augmented by the rowdy chorus of plundering pirates who brought an enormous amount of energy to the production and special mention should go to Hugo Puddle as the cheese fanatic Ben Gunn. The play also enabled Zoe Bickenson and Frankie D’Agata to showcase their beautiful singing voices.