Treasure Island

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(9user reviews)

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Arthur Darvill stars in the National Theatre's Christmas offering this year, an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel of pirates and adventure.

Those salty buccaneers Polly Findlay and Bryony Lavery have taken Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate story by force, and given it quite the refit. The imaginative writer/director team has turned Stevenson’s classic boy’s-own adventure story into a big mad scary gothic feminist coming-of-age panto, anchored by stupendous special effects – and a plucky hero who’s actually a heroine.

At Christmas, you can rely on the National Theatre to open its vast subsidised treasure chest and fling all its resources into a spectacular that resets the compass of tradition but is also genuinely fun for all the family. This year is no exception.

Lizzie Clachan’s design is worth the modest ticket price alone. From the planked wooden stage, an extraordinary ship rises and tilts beneath a dazzling canopy of artificial stars. After the interval, when Jim (or should that be Jemima?) and her naval friends and pirate foes have reached their accursed island destination, the stage is framed by a grove of wooden spars, like the bows of a wreck or the ribs of a broken-hearted giant.

‘Treasure Island’ boasts pace, daring, gruesome comedy and scary tattoos. But the story and the relationships feel scattered to the winds. That’s largely because the man at the centre of them – literature’s most compelling pirate, Long John Silver – is a bit of a let-down. Arthur Darvill looks the part, with his Jack Sparrow locks and debonair style. But he’s so bland he’s upstaged by his own sinister animatronic parrot.

Elsewhere, the ensemble is superb, especially when the women wear the breeches. Patsy Ferran is a brave, emotive girl Jim, Helena Lymbery brings solidity and moral courage as the ship’s doctor, and Claire-Louise Cordwell as Joan the Goat manages to be even more brutish and funny than her male pirate companions. If only its creators had added Long Jane Silver as well.

Let’s hope that 2014, with another superb all-female Shakespeare production that just wrapped up at the Donmar, goes down as the year that gender-blind casting, like colour-blind casting, began to be standard. Now that would be a truly spectacular new tradition to hand down to our adventurous children.



Users say (9)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:1
2 people listening

The show itself was fine. However, the booking fee on the Time out website is extortionate. It simply showed the price as £50 without any mention of a booking fee. As it turns out, these same tickets cost £39 at the NT and the implied £11 booking fee amounts to some 20%. Why not simply state the size of the booking fee in line with normal practice? To make it worse, there were no children prices and, for 2 adults and one child, I paid £150 to Time Out while the NT would have charged me £100. This is outrageous.

There is nothing wrong with setting the booking fee at any level: just make it clear upfront instead of hiding it.There was a very faint mention of a cover price - almost unreadable: I wonder why?

DO NOT use the Time Out website to book your tickets!

Thanks to Time Out I won free tickets to see this show at the National, a venue I always love going to.

The constantly evolving, intricate set is superbly realised, but sadly that is about all there is to write home about with this show. If I had to describe the play in one word it would be flat. Obviously the story of Treasure Island is one that's endured for generations, and pirates are ever popular, but something about this production meant that rather than being caught up in swashbuckling swordfights and near-death suspense, everything felt a bit flat and unengaging.

The script feels like it's trying too hard to sound antiquated and instead just went on too long while Jim's script seemed like it was trying to sound realistic in a Judd Apatow sort of way, but instead s/he sounded sort of simple, for want of a better word.

It was only the second night of previews and so hopefully some of the slow moments can be improved upon and more chemistry built up to create a Christmas treat for everyone, but I can't really imagine what could be done to make this show a patch on last year's Emil&The Detectives.

The set was phenomenal and the changes in scene to scene were well worth the watch. The storyline a bit slow at times but a well needed build up to the twists and turns of the otherwise fantastic play !

Thanks to Time Out, we had excellent seats last night for the second preview night. Jimima was particularly good and she pulled everything together. The dark humour was unexpected and neatly executed and of course,the sets were magnificent and should be kept a dark secret, like who dunnit in the Mousetrap. We struggled to make out what the Pirates were saying a lot of the time which was a pity, as I expect the lines would have been very funny. Fascinating depiction of Dr Livesy whose moral compass certainly wandered. As a granny myself, I was pleased to see that it was the grandmother who provided the example that redeemed Jimima when she had a little wobble.

Will be interesting to see how the play beds down.

This was truly AMAZING.  The set was stunning and the play witty and entertaining.  A wonderful production and will gladly recommend to all my friends and family.  Thank you Time out for the tickets (timeoutcard).

This production can be summarised in one word AMAZING!! The performers were outstanding, the stage set up phenomenal. Enjoyed every last minute of this wonderful play. The set design was flawless with the motion stage at the Olivier theatre one of the best I have ever seen. Truly a magical play for children and adults alike. I am 100% recommending this to all my friends and family (and anyone else who will listen) 


Amazing set design that will leave both kids and adults with mouth agape in wonder at every turn. Arthur Darvill plays a fantastically likable yet sinister Long John Silver. Love it! 

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