Review: Buxton Drama League’s panto production of Treasure Island

Lewis Gallimore and Fred Rolland in Treasure Island presented by Buxton Drama League.
Lewis Gallimore and Fred Rolland in Treasure Island presented by Buxton Drama League.

Buxton Drama League’s panto is back with a bang as the group takes to the high seas to provide an enhanced version of Treasure Island complete with raffish Robinson Crusoe and larger than life parrot.

The opening number is a riot of colour as the lively young chorus burst onto the stage with flowers in their hair.

We learn that young Jim Hawkins (a likeable, clean cut performance from Lewis Gallimore) has an embarrassing panto dame Ma (Barrie Goodwin on excellent form) and a glittering fairy godmother (Karen Nicholas).

What Jim lacks is any kind of living but the discovery of a pirate treasure map opens up some wonderful possibilities as he attempts to convince Squire Trelawny (Paul Harrison) that he is worthy of his daughter’s hand.

Fragrant Felicity Trelawny (Sophie Macbeth) proves more than a pretty face smuggling herself aboard for the adventure of a lifetime. In fact with many a false beard doing the rounds, it becomes clear that this particular crew is very female indeed!

As with every good panto, there are some memorable comic characters, notably gormless pirates in disguise Brass and Knuckles played by popular regulars Peter Stubbington and Sally Shaw, and the villainous Long John Silver himself, played with great grouchiness by Fred Rolland: “Stop being so blooming jolly- yes I’m talking to you Roger!” I wasn’t quite so sure about his sulky American parrot (Krystal Bolton) despite her killer put downs and undeniable stage presence. But hey, as the fairy godmother puts it “the budgie is glum but you always get one!”

A talented musician, Rolland brings out his guitar for several numbers and even wigs out on his crutch. With the ship’s captain (Emma Craufurd-Stuart) boasting a cracking singing voice, there are some excellent musical highlights.

After welcome refreshments, the second half boasts Robinson Crusoe himself, a James Bond-style clubbable chap played with fabulous elan by James Hamilton and flanked by glamorous Girl Fridays for every day of the week. Unconventional yes, but this is also panto as we know it complete with bench ghost scene and sweets for the children (carefully passed so as not to “maim the audience”.)

A few more local jokes would have added even more hilarity but the whole occasion, crisply directed by Jayne Marling, was a delightfully escapist way of spending a couple of hours on a grey winter’s afternoon.

Treasure Island is back at Burbage Institute, Buxton this Friday (7.30pm) and Saturday (2.30pm and 7.30pm) so ahoy there hearties and make haste to pick up your tickets from Burbage News, Clowes the Chemist or on the door.

STEPHANIE BILLEN