Helix Theatre, Dublin
TheatreWorx and Helix Theatre have carved a niche for themselves over the past 16 years as stagers of committed pop-culture pantomimes with the added attraction of unusual themes and inspirational heroines. This year they give Treasure Island a metatheatrical retelling in which the pages of the classic story come to life.
Young Jane Hawkins (Leah Barniville) is only delighted to have the opportunity for some adventure, and she sets off from Port Merryville to find the hidden treasure she reads about in a dusty old book. Her journey is made smooth by some Philip Pullmanesque equipment, but she doesn’t anticipate just how dastardly her villainous rival Long John Silver (Barry Keenan) is.
Claire Tighe, the production’s writer and director, smashes the fourth wall from the get-go, offering particular rewards to regular attendees of her annual extravaganza. Recurring characters such as Laurel (Aidan Mannion), Lola (Chris Coroon) and Buddy (Brian Dalton) don’t exactly enhance the plot, until they do. Indeed, the best moment of the night is born from a digression involving a kidnap by a gang of gorillas. Rita Tighe takes her costuming to a different level in this scene, providing both a suit and a cage for the imprisoned Laurel and his simian captor.
Tighe gives us some extra original characters, too, most memorably a vegan Celtic warrior and Instagram star, Clonakilty Jack (Michael Kiersey), and a fairy godmother who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mary Poppins (Rachel Gaughan). There are also, of course, plenty of song-and-dance routines, inspired by Barbie and Backstreet Boys, choreographed by Jen Dawson and performed by an adult-and-child chorus.
Despite the narrative diversions, Tighe keeps the pace of the panto impeccably tight. Everything from transitions to sound effects is delivered with well-rehearsed rigour that even the odd bit of corpsing from the comfortable cast doesn’t dispel. The TheatreWorx/Helix Panto is a well-oiled machine, but this year it is a particular treasure.
Treasure Island runs at the Helix Theatre, Dublin, until Sunday, January 14th