Review by Robin Parker
Treasure Island, based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson was the pantomime theme for Middleton Arena this year, I have never seen that book adapted before and was intrigued to see how it would work. Yes, there were four of the main characters of Treasure Island, namely Jim Hawkins, Billy Bones, Captain Smollett and Long John Silver. Silver was the baddy, there was a map, an island and a treasure chest. That much, and only that, links to Stevenson. For the rest, forget the plots and subplots, we were straight into pantomime mode and what a panto it turned out to be (Oh yes it was!).
The hostess was the Magical Mermaid, played by Hollyoaks Jazmine Franks, who was a woman who had been cursed to wear a fish’s tale and, in true panto style, the curse could only be lifted by True Love’s Kiss. This was eventually provided by the Principal Boy, Jim Hawkins, played by X-Factor finalist Lloyd Daniels. Billy Bones was ‘Silly Billy Bones’, the kids’ champion and played by comedian Ben Coles. But the greatest departure of all from Stevenson was Captain Smollett, who was the dame and played brilliantly by Matt Siveter. I don’t think s/he changed a scene (and s/he was in most of them) without changing costume as well. The other character was the Indian Island Chief, played by singer Ella Holt.
At the interval we were issued with 3D glasses and there were brilliant special effects both of a shipwreck and under the sea. Quite something to have Jaws within an inch of your nose!
Reality was there in the background. Covid19 meant there were no kids on stage and no meet and greets with the actors afterwards. Also, I noted that before Billy and Smollett threw the traditional packets of goodies into the audience from a supermarket trolley, they surreptitiously sanitised their hands. Covid might also have been the reason that there was a dancing chorus of just two lads and two lasses.
But that small cast turned in a magnificent pantomime performance. All the usual panto bits were included (Behind you!). My daughter, who is a panto connoisseur, said it was one of the best she’d seen. In my view, this show would not have been out of place in any venue in any City Centre. It runs until Tuesday 28th December (Oh yes it does!).
Don’t miss it.