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Treasure Island The Pirate Panto at Rotherhithe Playhouse

That the Rotherhithe Playhouse is in the pub garden of The Ship seemed apt for this production, if only because the set (suspending disbelief at the theatre door and all that) does well to resemble a vessel at sea.

Treasure Island The Pirate PantoA couple of cast members not in the scene already in progress when I finally managed to get there (the lobby effectively becomes what would be the wings in a proscenium arch theatre once the curtain had gone up) kindly insisted on letting me in anyway. I had, apparently, missed (amongst other things) an Abba song about ‘pirate queens’. From what I did see, there wasn’t anything in the way of call and response, no booing and hissing of the pantomime villain, and nobody’s entry on to the stage was noted by any kind of phrase or welcome.

Very few people attend pantomime for the storyline, and yet here was, in progress, a full-blown narrative with some substantial discussions going on about what should happen next, but without anybody asking the audience if a proposed course of action really is a good idea or not. I started to wonder whether I was even watching a panto (I had a look at the venue’s website afterwards, and the production is definitely listed at the time of writing as Treasure Island – The Pirate Pantomime), or if this was a play that couldn’t decide if it was a melodrama or a comedy. It was mildly amusing, and very inoffensive, but the audience wasn’t exactly roaring with laughter.

Recorded music piped in makes for an imbalanced sound when combined with unamplified voices for the songs in the show. An obsession a character has with cheese is playfully explored, through spoken word as well as song, and there’s some puppetry to enjoy. I couldn’t quite work out who the target audience was. A tad too adulty for children, and yet a tad too simplified to be appreciated as a weighty play. Not having seen the production in its entirety, it wouldn’t be fair to put a star rating on it, though it seemed slickly executed and had commendable costumes for its cast.

Review by Chris Omaweng


This December, audiences are invited to share in an adventure of pirates, parrots and priceless booty with Phil Willmott’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island.

This classic tale of danger and courage, deception and greed, follows Jim Hawkins, a young man coming of age, as he sets off on an voyage to recover buried treasure whilst outwitting the dastardly pirate Long John Silver. Revised, with male and female buccaneers and a dash of panto, the seafaring epic features a diverse cast of professional actors which includes a recent graduate, an asylum seeker and an eco-warrior.

Performed outdoors in the heated Rotherhithe Playhouse marquee, the show will set sail from The Ship pub on St Marychurch Street from December 9 to 23 rd, with free tickets to anyone accessing food banks and subsidised school meals and on a “pay only what you can afford” basis for everyone else at every performance.
So join the crew for an adventure of low life, high seas, fair winds and foul manners and find a fortune beyond one’s wildest dreams.

Rotherhithe Playhouse Present
The Pirate Panto!
Adapted and directed by Phil Willmott
from the classic adventure story by Robert Louis Stephenson
Rotherhithe Theatre
The Rear Courtyard
The Ship, 39-47 St. Marychurch Street Rotherhithe, London SE16 4JE


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