Treasure Island makes a big splash Leicester

Leicester Haymarket’s first Community Production

It was exciting this evening to attend the Press Night for the Haymarket Theatre’s first ever house production, Treasure Island. Penned by the idiosyncratic comedic talent, Sandi Toksvig, this production has wit and humour, catchy pirate beats and a humble handmade setting that is both endearing and effortlessly clever.

This production is full of musical numbers and chucklesome dialogue that will entertain theatre goers of all ages. We saw lots of children in the audience having an absolute whale of a time, and there were plenty of adults alone (like ourselves) that were thoroughly entertained by the performance.

Programme at Treasure Island, Leicester Haymarket
I was less than 5 metres away from Sandi Toksvig when I took this selfie. Skwee!!

What the Folderol?

While Sandi Toksvig wrote the dialogue, her sister Jenifer wrote the lyrics for the songs. They are punchy, funny and will infect your brain. Nearly 24 hours on, I am still plagued by sea shanty ear worms! The production is written specifically for Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre and directed by a local lad. This absolutely shines through with a number of clever references to the city. Not least the poignant mentions to the Wizard of Oz – the final production at the old Haymarket before its closure in 2007. Treasure Island surely stamps the theatre’s triumphant return on the map – after all, X marks the spot.

The audience was in fits when the very special cameo performance by Gary Linekar took place. But I won’t spoil it. Go and see the show for yourself.

Treasure Island at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre, Captain Flint the parrot
Pamela Raith Photography

The casting is perfect. There is a lovely balance of strong female and male leads as well as a motley crew of pirates of all genders. These performers are composed of actors of all ages. They were drawn from purely local talent in a series of open calls earlier this year. Kat Engall’s Jim Hawkins makes a beautifully engaging unlikely hero, while for me Tanveer Devgun and Jules Brown’s performances also led the way in giving the show depth, humour and utter engagement with the audience.

Pieces of Eight

Inside the programme for Treasure Island, Leicester
A sneak peek in side the programme

It’s not quite a pantomime, and not quite a play either. I really enjoyed the clever stage management, making effective use of minimal staging. A single violin or accordion is regularly used as a powerful musical accompaniment. On many occasions the melding of vocal harmonies raised a particularly powerful punctuation to the action. I think therefore, that David Perkins’ clever composition must also be remarked upon.

It’s laugh out loud funny, in fact you’ll probably find yourself sniggering pretty much the whole way through. I absolutely adored the puppetry that added a very simple suspension of reality to the whole proceedings. Captain Flint (the parrot, not the dude) was also going to be my favourite in any adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic… Beautifully crafted and good clean family fun. I’m already looking forward to Robin Hood, which will be produced by the same team as the 2019-20 show.

Ben Gunn in Leicester Haymarket's Treasure Island. Amazing puppetry.
Pamela Raith Photography

Treasure Island runs until 6th January 2019. Tickets are available from the Haymarket’s online box office. Prices start at £13.50.

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