The Garden Suburb Theatre (GST) is a friendly and welcoming amateur theatre company.

We are a registered charity promoting involvement in the Dramatic Arts in North London. We welcome anyone who wishes to learn more about drama, either by participating in or coming to watch one of our diverse programme of shows.

Review

The acting space-rather than a formal stage-at the venue UPSTAIRS AT THE GATEHOUSE allows for a high degree of intimacy and flexibility on the part of the production in terms of audience enjoyment. However, there is a potential downside in that the absence of formal staging also means the performers have to work harder and with more skill and projection to create the required setting, atmosphere and clear and distinct characterisation and mood.

Garden Suburb Theatre Company were largely yet not fully successful in achieving this aim with a faithful reproduction of Robert Louis Stevenson's TREASURE ISLAND; indeed it may be seen as a brave venture to tackle the problems inherent in needing to imagine the various busy and contrasting settings-a London inn or two,a fully manned ship, a remote desert island as so much depends on the audience buying into the concept!

The set devised by Andy Farrer (more of him later) was faithful to the period; simple and stark for the most part and cleverly adaptable ship's rigging and sail appearing when necessary but never intrusively.

The play began with good necessary tension and darkness of mood with Jon Musker playing a well observed, truculent but weak Billy Bones, giving the boys at the inn a hard time. Enter Black Dog with menace-the aforementioned Andy Farrer giving a very sure-footed portrayal of a brusque and confident villain and, in a scene which highlighted the society's main strength, we saw a well-executed swordfight, played with verve and brio.

Choreography in the shape of swordfights, hand-to-hand combat and battles, were all very well staged high points. However, where the production was not quite as strong was in the conveying of necessary menace where appropriate and the darkening of mood and tone one needed to be more convincing of the urgency of the message.

As Long John Silver, Mark Overall looked very much the part, both in costume and physical appearance. He exuded a warmth and empathy which drew one to find him favourable even though he is archetypically bad! In particular his bond with Jim Hawkins - largely on the side of Jim it has to be said - was very well drawn and presented for our observance as the play nears its end. I mention Jim Hawkins - this part was played with earnestness and a nice youthful purity by Isaac Rudden.

The part of Blind Pew could have been truly terrifying but was not in the persona of Edward Smith who played him in idiosyncratic fashion. Edward caught the eye later as a vibrant and animated ship's crew member with a distinctive style of delivery.

Toby Moore had clearly elected to play Squire Trelawney as a soft, compliant and genial man which was well chosen in its effect as a counterfoil to the blackness going on around him. The versatility of the actors was there for all to see as Jon Musker returned to the piece as Captain Smollett. I felt he could have played the role harder and with more edge whilst Andy Farrer played two more pirates with equal energy and force after Black Dog.

Ian Grainger made his debut as Doctor Livesy; a good first part although he will open up a little more I would imagine in future shows. His projection and body movement understandably a little constricted. Speaking again of versatility, John Colmans played no less than three parts with competence although I felt that the eccentricity and vagueness of Ben Gunn could have been shown to better effect with a little more range from John in that particular part. An honourable mention too for Joe Solomons and Gabriel Musker for their roles all adding to the ensemble effect as necessary, this includes other various pirates and inn customers not getting individual name checks!

Some of the effects were very good, in particular the storm simulation and the 'man overboard' sequence. Others could have been a touch better; the Spyglass Tavern should have been more rumbustious as it was a little unnatural for customers to be in silence and strategic discussions between the ship's officers sometimes lacked a little pace and punch even though they served the main purpose of setting the scene.

Turning the wheel of the ship also worked very well to the accompaniment of the stirring shanty FIFTEEN MEN ON A DEAD MAN'S CHEST. The musical background where effected was varied and suitable - Mike Oldfield's PORTSMOUTH when setting sail and a very jaunty rock type number PIECES OF EIGHT among others.

Both acts ended strongly and the suggestion of trouble building for Long John at the end of act one gave a meaningful climax. Best of all the touching end to the whole story, when Ben acknowledges the coming of age of Jim, to the accompaniment of soft piano music, was beautifully and gently effected - as was Jim's generosity of spirit in releasing Long John, another touching sequence.

So well done to Debbie Lane for her astute direction along with Mary Groom assisting, and to all the unsung heros working backstage and in the other elements of the production.

Review by John Maslen

This is a review of Treasure Island

The original review is here: Sardines Magazine