By Fanny Charles
Robert Louis Stevenson understood the timeless appeal of a great adventure and his most popular book, Treasure Island, continues to delight and excite audiences of all ages.
Salisbury Studio Theatre’s youth theatre staged a swashbuckling production, based on the play by Ken Ludwig and directed by Peter McAuley, who found some suitably cinematic and piratical music to set the scene.
Any version of Treasure Island stands or falls on the performance of the actor cast as Long John Silver, one of the archetypal villains-we-
cannot-resist. He’s a black-hearted rogue with a fluent tongue, a good line in Shakespearean quotes, a sense of piratical honour and an un-
expected streak of decency.
Luke Pullen was a charismatic star as Silver – from his totally credible wooden leg to his explosive violence, his winning smile to his terrifying roar, his ridiculous charm to his ruthless cruelty. There’s a future Richard III if ever I saw one.
Alice Walters was young Jim Hawkins, plucky and capable, if sometimes defeated by the loud music – it was a good sound-track, but we could have done with less of it and it definitely needed to be turned down during the dialogue.
Philipp Nikolin was the older Jim, looking back on an adventure that changed his life.
In a very large cast, Maddy Ryalls stood out as a feisty, wiry Ben Gun, convincing as a man driven almost mad by isolation (and the lack of cheese) but still with shreds of courage and humanity.
Hugo Clark was both the unspeakable Captain Flint and the haunted Billy Bones; Hannah Butcher was a convincingly honourable naval officer; Captain Smollet, and Cassia Woolley had just the right gravitas as Dr Livesey.
Young actors often find it hard to project their voices and here they were competing with the music.
The show looked great, the set-piece scenes – pirates invading the Admiral Benbow Inn, mutiny and the battle at the stockade were all well done – but the dialogue was often lost in the quieter scenes.
But it was good to see this great story properly told, as a play not a pantomime.