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The cast of Treasure Island.
The cast of Treasure Island.

This Christmas, Birmingham Repertory Theatre is raising the curtain once again on a classic adventure, as they set sail for the magical Treasure Island.

When pirates ransack Grandma Hawkins’ inn, her fearless granddaughter Jim unearths a treasure map and knows she must follow it to uncover its fortune. Gathering a motley crew of sailors and pirates, Jim sets sail on the mighty Hispaniola to seek out a lost island where riches await.

The ship’s charming cook, Long John Silver, befriends Jim. As they follow the stars to the island, it seems Long John is not all he seems. Will Jim and her friends track down the buried treasure, or lose their lives in the process?

Robert Louis Stevenson’s well known tale of adventure and friendship has been given a breathtaking new adaptation by Bryony Lavery, whose A Christmas Carol played to packed houses in 2013.

And it seems they certainly have pulled out all the stops, creating a breathtaking show audience members of all ages appreciated.

The ensemble cast of actor musicians, led by Sarah Middleton as Jim and Michael Hodgson as Long John Silver, does a splendid job.

It was a bold move to introduce a female into the principal role – and one I was initially dubious about – but Sarah gave the character her own spin and the audience quickly warmed to the idea of it. As director Phillip Breen says: “Girls can have adventures too!”

In history, women were pirates, did physical work on the land and even disguised themselves as men to pursue a career. Writer Bryony Lavery knew she could change some genders without stretching credibility, hence the arrival as well of female characters such as Joan the Goat, Doctor Livesey and Red Ruth.

The vision for the set design is to evoke the atmosphere of a ruined 19 Century theatre, whose ropes, backdrops and stage all transform into the deck and rigging of the ship that will set sail on this magnificent journey. The results are stunningly effective.

While the production team may be seen as having taken risks, for me, they paid off. This reimagined version of Treasure Island is actually a triumph – and a welcome departure from the pantomime treadmill at this time of year.

Catch it if you can. The show plays at the Rep until 7 January.

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