Treasure Island – The Pantomime
Written by: Simon Leary and Gavin Rutherford
Directed by: Gavin Rutherford
Running at Circa Theatre until 13th Jan 2024
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
Every year, families flock to Circa Theatre from across the region to catch the annual pantomime, an all-singing, all-dancing, all-fun Kiwi take on a children’s classic.
Treasure Island – The Pantomime follows young orphan Jim (Reuben Romanos), who lives in Island Bay with Aunt Peggy Legg (Jthan Morgan), a poor, lonely widow (aww). With a head full of stars and big dreams of something more, Jim’s mundane life becomes anything but when his dog Patch (Jackson Burling) regurgitates a treasure map. Dodging a crooked crew comprising the dastardly Long John Silver (Kathleen Burns), the hapless Smee (Tawhi Thomas), and other horsey, sleepy, and out-of-the-loop pirates (Bronwyn Turei), Jim, Patch, Peggy, and Sabrina the Appropriately Aged Witch (Natasha McAllister) embark on a rollicking race against time to get to the gold first.
Simon Leary and Gavin Rutherford’s sharp, topical jokes traverse The ACT Party and Beehive bureaucracy, while other novel additions include a spaced-out nana (Turei), buxom, titillating treasure chests, and a kraken called Carin voiced by Karin McCracken. It’s safe to say, then, that Treasure Island – The Pantomime is only loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson tale, but with such a strong story as its foundations and such a proficient team at its helm, the 21st-century treatment goes down a treat.
Alongside Morgan’s inability to not say “treasure map” as Peggy, the music (direction and arrangement by Michael Nicholas Williams) is my show highlight. Featuring P!NK, Eurythmics, The Beach Boys, and more, the soundtrack is performed pitch-perfectly by the powerhouse cast, who have me dancing in my seat. McAllister and Morgan’s choreography is the icing on the cake, especially in I Think We’re Alone Now.
The design elements – from Jon Coddington’s whimsical puppetry to Ian Harman’s elaborate set, Sheila Horton’s colourful costuming to Marcus McShane’s bright and bold lighting scheme – create a captivating world where the performers magnetise their talent to draw us in. It was a pleasure to get lost in Treasure Island – The Pantomime, and to holler along with the littlies in the crowd. I felt like a kid again.