Nicolas Billon’s commissioned adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic is the perfect summation of the last 10 days of theatregoing both here and at the Shaw Festival.
Most assuredly, whatever barrier that might typically be expected between the audience and the stage (including pre-curtain, on stage telescope “tours”) disappeared into the fly tower.
Director Mitchell Cushman, along with his talented cast and crew (notably Douglas Paraschuk’s fantastical set, Charlotte Dean’s spectacular costumes and Kevin Fraser’s lighting plot that made the action so easy to follow for young and not-so-young alike), created what well might be described as the Cirque du Soleil version of the timeless tale of the quest for riches—at any cost—and the ideal foil to last night’s study of gold found, lost and found again (cross-reference below).
With swarthy sailors, a wayward parrot and curvaceous Ben Gunn (a first-rate rendition by Katelyn McCulloch) respectively dropping, crash landing or flying onto/around the stage, the sense of 3-D movement (deftly reinforced by Nick Bottomley’s stellar projections) made the run time disappear in a flash, much to the delight of parents and the large number of children on hand for the opening “night” occasion.
Finally, the copious amounts of broad humour—ranging from groaners to Three Stooges slapstick through to a few digs at the Festival’s namesake—found a welcome home and detracted nary a whit/wit from the slight narrative.
Kudos to Juan Chioran’s nuanced takes on Father/Long John Silver, Thomas Mitchell Barnet playing James/Jim Hawkins with a compelling sense of rapt wonder then bold heroism, Sara Dodd’s no-nonsense view of Dr. Diana Livesey and Jim Codrington’s very able command as Captain Smollett (yet there was a curious moment after the BIG storm where the bridge remained, er, rudderless).
This season’s Schulich Children’s Play will undoubtedly enchant and captivate youngsters of all ages, even if a few of them might experience some anxious moments as a few of the pirates and their betters walk the plank to oblivion.
Nonetheless, there’s enough treasure in this production to leave one and all feeling that they too have found gold!JWR