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Treasure Island Sets Sail at KES

Treasure Island Sets Sail at KES
Drama Co-Curricular Life

A review of the Senior School production, Treasure Island

KES has set sail for Treasure Island and discovered a golden hoard of dramatic booty! This was a treasure of a show from a script adapted from the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel by Bryony Lavery for the National Theatre. The entire vessel was ably commanded by the indomitable team of Victoria Stevens-Craig and Catherine Bruton, who clearly worked incredibly hard as directors to bring this exciting production to such a thrilling climax.  All the usual KES Drama-classic signatures were there: a stunning wooden set that evoked the intimacy of the Benbow Inn, the deck of the Hispaniola – with fully operational sails for added realism – and the bleakness of Treasure Island itself, while being sturdy enough to get banged, whacked, tapped and stamped on by everyone with obvious glee! Lighting that powerfully evoked a cosy pub, a storm-lashed sea and the vile isle, cleverly also being used to double-down on the blood-letting and providing dramatic depth to the fallen! And of course, superbly choreographed fight scenes, rolling seas and slow-mo action to ramp up the storytelling in this buccaneering adventure.

A separate note needs to be made for the swelling score that ran through the whole show, punctuated with haunting melodies and beautiful harmonies performed by a confident cast. Mark Boden’s original music was a tour de force: poignant and stirring, supporting the tension when needed and perfectly mirroring the emotion of the actors. 

But, as always, the real stars of the show were the cast and crew who gave their all to create such a truly exciting yarn. The KES Drama tradition of multiple casting was in full force – never an easy thing to pull off, but a great way for the many, many talented young actors to get their chance to try out these fun characters. Indeed, the multi-faceted roles were superbly handled. The strategy allowed Imogen Luker to bring the likeable energy of Jim Hawkins to perfect pitch, with Ava Shaw and Ariana Moayedi picking up the baton with equal enthusiasm, creating a trio of leading cabin girls who drove the narrative, ably connected by an emotional narrator from the future in Annabel Howlett’s steady Jim Hawkins.

Luiza Britton confidently established the real captain of the landlubbers in her portrayal of Doctor Livesey, taken up with aplomb by Yvie Woods. Ned Holdsworth’s joyously exuberant Squire Trelawney declaimed ‘be damned with your fourth wall’ with his first drawling aside and Edie Bourne-Jones brought the character to hysterical heights in the final act. Last, but not least, among the multipliers, Jonty Manners-Bell perfectly set the tone as Long John Silver, with a sinister charisma that helped to build great relationships with the other characters and to which Barnaby Saumarez Smith and Roman Bradford added their own swaggering villainy; stand aside Jack Sparrow, there’s a new pirate-chief in town!

Among the ensemble of single-actor characters, several performances really stood out. Neve Riley’s Grandma Hawkins was played with such naturalism that I really believed she was the kindly matriarch of the Benbow Inn! Violet Fitzwater Bowker’s Red Ruth was a comic joy with an emotional denouement sensitively played. Ollie Featherstone’s Bill Bones was captivatingly tortured as he crashed through the pub like a bull in a china shop, and all were worthy of being commended for their excellent sword fighting, reflecting amazing skill and realism on the part of all the actors involved. Silas Collins’ Blind Pugh was commandingly terrifying. Joseph Walker was wholly unforgettable as the eminently forgettable Grey – indeed, many of the stand-out laugh-out-loud moments were his. Finally, perhaps the most impressive performance of the night, for me, was Lily Chapman’s exhilarating characterisation of Ben Gunn. Part Caliban, part Gollum and all magnificent – she portrayed beautifully the destroyed remains of a haunted soul with humanity, depth and excellent comic timing to round out the character.

The rest of the actors can’t be forgotten, but are perhaps too numerous to name here; suffice to say this Treasure Island was crewed with tremendous energy, wit and verve, whether by the unseen technical hands who followed that spot perfectly, the charming ensemble of the patrons of the Benbow (chicken and all), the dastardly pirate crew, the lovely puppeteering and true animation of Captain Flint the Parrot, or the atmospheric and flexible Crew Members who did so much to create the atmosphere and transport us on our journey to that vile isle! Well done all on such a magnificent production!

Review by Mr Thomas


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Treasure Island Sets Sail at KES