Review: Treasure Island
Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre has a long reputation for producing much-loved, if cheap and cheerful festive fayre. It’s under new ownership now, having recently been purchased by the Trafalgar Group, and so this year’s production is perhaps best viewed as a pantomime in transition, producers Imagine inheriting a title and cast from the out-going management. Consequently, this could well be your last chance to experience all the throwaway madness of The Pavilion’s idiosyncratic style of ‘Poundland panto’.
Along with the likes of Ali Baba and The 40 Thieves, Babes In The Wood and Humpty Dumpty, Treasure Island is one of a number of pantomime titles that have slowly fallen out of favour over the generations and is now seldom staged, still, over two and a half hours a nine-strong cast, peppered with familiar faces from the world of sport and television give it their best bash.
The swashbuckling take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic is a simple one. Henrietta Hawkins, played with all the gallus bonhomie of a nautical Lulu by Valissa Scott, owns The Moan Inn, where she lives with her sons, Jim, a gormless dreamer played by River City’s Scott Fletcher, and Silly Willie, a bouncy, shouty Liam Dolan who keeps the energy high and the kids entertained.
When Jim finds a treasure map hidden in the cellar of the inn, the three Hawkins determine to set sail on a voyage of discovery, the mysterious treasure being their goal. They enlist the help of Squire McClunky (Wullie Brennan in grandiose form) and his niece and love interest for young Jim, Polly Pollock, a lovely turn from the sweet voiced Jennifer Neil.
Enter evil Long John Silver, a mildly menacing Jack Jester, and his crew, Pirate Pucklebum, played with glaiket charm by wrestler turned Two Doors Down favourite, Grado, and Pirate Pilchard, River City’s Stephen Purdon in fine strutting form. Silver quickly fools the Squire into hiring him and his men as crew for the voyage, taking him closer to fulfilling his dream of stealing the treasure for himself.
And so, carried along on a wave of corny gags, many of which fail to land, and mostly forgettable musical numbers (exceptions being Dolan’s entrance, a clever pastiche of Aqua’s I’m A Barbie Girl performed on roller skates, a sea-faring mash-up and a finale sing-along to The Monkees’ I’m A Believer), they set sail.
Highlights along the way include a spot of cross-dressing by Grado and Purdon, the closest this panto comes to having a Dame, or indeed Ugly Sisters, and an attempt at the ever popular ‘lover’s wall’ routine.
Unfortunately, despite stunning digital scenery, with a bitty script the tale lacks a natural flow. That impacts on performances as does a muddy sound design and an over-adventurous TikTok inspired songsheet that leaves the kids on stage as bemused as their parents in the audience and Dolan working his socks off to keep the energy going - even asking at one point if he has been set up.
It will certainly be interesting to see what Trafalgar and Imagine’s choices are for the Pavilion next Christmas, a production that once pulled in the crowds with panto legends like The Krankies, Jim Davison, Christian and Dean Park topping the bill. Right now, just such a seasoned star attraction is missing and as such, Scotland’s Home of Variety deserves something better than this Treasure Island. That said, a trip to the Pavilion is still sure to shiver your timbers and leave you with a smile on your face.
Runs until 14 January, Tickets pavilliontheatre.co.uk/shows/treasure-island/