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Treasure Island review

Patsy Ferran as Jim Hawkins and Arthur Darvill as Long John Silver

Aaaa-haaaaaaahhh! As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a big fan of Patsy Ferran. So I was delighted when Treasure Island appeared this week on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel, having missed it on the Olivier stage back in 2014.

“Girls need adventures too,” says Alexandra Maher’s Dr Livesey early on in Bryony Lavery’s adaptation which casts Ferran as Jim Hawkins but thankfully stops short of giving us a Long Jane Silver.

Arthur Darvill’s “one legged nightmare” LJS (complete with a metal limb that looks like it was stolen off a Terminator) makes an immensely likable villain, but it’s Ferran’s wide-eyed young adventurer who steals the show. No wonder she won awards for this.

Polly Findlay’s production is simultaneously menacing and funny and almost every line is delivered with a rum-sozzled shout. Lizzie Clachan’s immense multi-levelled set morphs impressively from inn to ship to island quicker than it takes to knock out a sea shanty on a fiddle.

The supporting cast is full of memorable characters such as the terrifyingly tattooed Bill Bones (Aidan Kelly) and Joshua James’ scrawny former cabin boy Ben Gunn, driven mad with solitude and obsessed by cheese.

The verdict? This land lubber loved it: Pieces of 8 out of 10.

Treasure Island is on the National Theatre at Home YouTube channel until 23 April

Jesus Christ Superstar review

As the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar take their bows at the end of the show at London’s O2, Andrew Lloyd Webber strides on stage with a microphone to say what a joy it to see his musical being performed in a proper rock venue.

This 2012 production, streaming on YouTube over the Easter weekend, doesn’t stint on the spectacle, but it does sometime feel like it’s trying too hard to justify its place in such a vast arena. Despite a giant screen showing close-ups, flashing social media messages, and even lashings of blood, I do wonder how engaging it would have felt sitting at the back. At least this version puts the audience right there on stage.

Director Laurence Connor gives the story a present-day twist inspired by the Occupy protest movement, which allows for an impressive opening scene involving riot police and pop-up tents. And the decision to put Jesus on trial by TV with Chris Moyles’s Herod as a red-suited game show host (“TEXT Lord or Fraud”!) works bizarrely well.

While I enjoyed Ben Forster’s emotional portrayal of Jesus, and Mel C as Mary Magdalene, it is Tim Minchin’s dreadlocked Judas who is the real star of the show.  He snarls and smoulders like a proper villain. But what a heavenly voice.

Jesus Christ Superstar can be watched here until 7pm on Easter Sunday. 

One Man, Two Guvnors review

Sadly it looks like there won’t be any live theatre for a few weeks yet, so (like many other frustrated theatre bloggers) I thought I’d write about a few of the plays that are appearing online during the lockdown.

Where better to start than with Richard Bean’s much-garlanded adaptation of The Servant of Two Masters by the C18th Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni.

I was lucky enough to see this National Theatre production twice: with James Corden (2011), and later Owain Arthur (2012), in the lead role of Francis Henshall, a gluttonous minder who ends up juggling jobs for a gangster and a toff in 1963 Brighton.

At the time, I thought this was the funniest thing I’d ever seen in a theatre. Yes, even more mirth-inducing than Noises Off or The Chuckle Brothers’ Doctor What and the Return of the Garlics.

So did it still make me laugh when I streamed the Corden version off YouTube onto my bedroom telly? The answer is yes, but not as much as I expected. It felt half an hour too long, and I longed for the raucous experience of seeing it with a live audience.

That said, Corden’s slapstick performance is sublime, the audience participation sequences are superb and the musical interludes are, er, infectious.

The play also contains what – in my uncultured opinion – is one of the greatest lines ever written for the English stage:

“Love passes through marriage faster than shit through a small dog.”

Richard Bean’s new play Jack Absolute Flies Again (written with Guvnor cast member Oliver Chris) was due to have opened at the National Theatre this month. Let’s hope we get to see it soon.

One Man, Two Guvnors can be watched on YouTube until 9 April