Pirates are all the buzz…

Flock off, Jack Sparrow! There’s a wrong-way parrot at the Stratford Festival which has summer 2017’s best pirate buzz. That stage-effect parrot crashes with merry abandonment but the Fest’s family-friendly Treasure Island is a palpable hit.

Complete with hilarious Shakespeare spoofing, screaming kids in the audience getting their panto on, and impressive stage effects (mad parrot included) Treasure Island finds sweet pirate gold in a new adaptation (by Nicolas Billon) of the R.L. Stevenson classic.

Gold, I tell ya!

Director Mitchell Cushman has strong performances from Thomas Mitchell Barnet (as suburban lad James and cabin boy hero Jim Hawkins) and Juan Chioran (as James’s dad who morphs into one-legged pirate Long John Silver). Those performances make the wild dream-like voyage to find pirate loot segue to a soothing family drama that will touch fans old and young.

Treasure Island, Stratford Festival 2017
From left: Juan Chioran as Long John Silver, Thomas Mitchell Barnet as Jim Hawkins and Jamie Mac as Allardyce in Treasure Island. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Also appealing across the generations is aerial silks ace Katelyn McCulloch who plays suburban sister Bennett in the “real” world and marooned pirate Ben Gunn on the island. Bennett sprawls in the upper bunk of the childrens’ bedroom while their father reads the pirates’ tale to James.

The plot thickens…

When brother and sister meet on the island, their characters have changed. He is Jim Hawkins battling the pirates. McCulloch is Ben Gunn, a crazed castaway left behind three years earlier by another ship’s crew.

McCulloch has soared aloft from the upper bunk to swing in tropical trees (the silks), Cirque-style. Ben Gunn helps Jim hide from the pirates by scrambling up said silks… and showing her brother the ropes, you might say.

Treasure Iasland, Stratford Festival 2017
Members of the company in Treasure Island. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Billon’s adaptation has good cheesy fun with Stevenson’s original Ben Gunn, who admitted to missing toasted cheese the most while subsisting on a diet of goat, nuts ,and oysters on the island.

Billon gives Ben Gunn a full-on cheese obsession, actually and in a slice, there is Treasure Island for you. It is a big cheese dream, but never cheesy.

You want to see Treasure Island because:

You’re a kid and know real actors make much better and funnier pirates than any big-screen Caribbean crew. Or you’re an adult ready to voyage to that discovery. 

You might want to skip Treasure Island if:

“Death to Jack Sparrow” is your motto or you are irked by the sight of kids rushing to get chocolate money from faux pirates stationed at theatre exits.

Inevitable #ldnont connection:

There are amazing pirate sugar cookies on sale in the Avon Theatre lobby. They’re the creations of A Couple Of Squares Inc., based at Nighingale Avenue in London, ON. Bloody maaaarrrrrrvellous, they are. As good as cheese…

Treasure Island - On The Run 2017
Members of the company in Treasure Island. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Treasure Island opened at the Avon Theatre on Saturday June 3 and continues until Oct. 22. Visit the Stratford Festival’s site for further details and click here for tickets.

James Stewart Reaney keeps James’s Brander Newer Blogger at LondonFuse.ca as part of his volunteerism and reverence for London A&E. He recently retired from The London Free Press after more than 30 years covering everything from A — The Alcohollys — to B: baseball’s 1986 World Series. Follow his Twitter #ldnont thoughts via @JamesSReaney

Feature photo by Lynda Churilla

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