How many pirates can you get on a dead man’s chest these days?
Quite a few, it seems, when the madness of The Nuffield Theatre’s Christmas Show, Treasure Island is taken into account.
To be honest, by the time the pirate recruits from the audience had been press-ganged (willingly) into helping Jim Hawkins and the rest of the good guys from Admiral Benbow put the old sea shanty to the test, Robert Louise Stevenson would have been turning in Davy Jones’s Locker.
But then again, despite the repeated protestations of Doctor Livesey that this wasn’t a pantomime (all together now - oh yes it is), The Nuffield’s take on this swashbuckling classic of missing pirate treasure, talkative parrots and, of course, the wonders of cheese, was always going to be fairly liberal when sticking to the plot.
The original, for instance, most definitely did not include a fair smattering of songs, several male characters being played by women (all very panto, you see) and an imaginative way of bringing characters back to life when they went and got themselves run through with a cutlass.
It’s fine ooh-arrr me’hearties stuff with clever sets and a good mixture of ‘groan-groan’ jokes for the adults, and slap-about fun for the kids.
The first half is a little lacking in audience participation and could benefit from more engagement as we meet the un-savoury likes of Blind Pew, Captain Billy Bones, the love-struck Mrs Hawkins and her maid Pimple. But the second act is much more action-packed with plenty ‘he’s behind you’ stuff.
Michael Magnet makes for an admiral Long John Silver, pitted against Nicola Blackman as the formidable and very convincing Captain.
The children in the cast rotate with performances, with Jim Hawkins being played in turn by Joel Barney, Charlie Steggall and Laurence McNamara.
Music is by Neil Brand and the piece is adapted from the novel and directed by Patrick Sandford creating his last seasonal show before he leaves the Nuffield in the spring.
I’m not certain what bloodthirsty Captain Flint imagined when he hid away his ill-gotten booty and left his treasure map, but somehow I doubt if he had this mayhem in mind.
Treasure Island runs until Sunday January 13, 2013. Box office: 023 8067 1771 or nuffieldtheatre.co.uk