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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Treasure Island, Wee Stories theatre review

Published in Northings

Treasure Island
King's Theatre, Edinburgh

IAIN JOHNSTONE is adrift on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Talking directly to the audience, he sets the scene. "No ships, no land, no aeroplanes," he says. This being the day UK airports have finally reopened after the Icelandic volcano, it is an adlib that gets a laugh of recognition.

And it is far from being the only laugh in this two-man adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's high-seas page-turner. That might come as a surprise to those who love the novel for its sense of adventure, pace and danger, rather than for its knockabout laughs, but the ever reliable Wee Stories theatre company is brilliant at injecting the best kind of fun and enthusiasm into the most serious of tales.

As it has done with Arthurian legend, Shakespearean tragedy and Greek myth, the company introduces young audiences to a powerful, dramatic story in a way that is both deeply respectful of the original and unafraid to have a giggle.

Thus, it presents Stevenson's 1883 story in terms of two musicians who are lost at sea with only bananas and champagne to keep them going. The company gives us not only a retelling of the tale of teenager Jim Hawkins and his voyage with an unsavoury crew in search of buried treasure, but also a framing narrative about two men who are becoming increasingly fed up of each other's company.

Joined by Andy Cannon, Johnstone passes the time by acting out Treasure Island, a book both men adore. They score laughs in their bickering relationship and their arguments about how to stage the story, but never in a way that diminishes their passion for the piratical adventure itself.

The approach also comes with a built-in theatricality. Stranded on their raft, Johnstone and Cannon can tell the story only with the material immediately to hand. They use bananas for guns, empty bottles for additional characters and a double bass for a galleon. They make scratch costumes with whatever is to hand and make quick changes as they run though Stevenson's colourful cast of seamen and landlubbers.

The result is a highly entertaining show that trusts the power of the imagination and captures the excitement of Stevenson's swashbuckling story, doing so in an unpretentious and lively way.

Treasure Island is at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, from 28 April to 1 May 2010.

© Mark Fisher, 2010

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