“Fifteen Men on a dead man’s chest… yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum!”

Treasure Island is a classic of children’s literature – a colourful tale of adventure, intrigue and skulduggery.

Creation Theatre’s fabulous production takes Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling tale, lashes it to the mast, peppers it with shot and dashes it on the rocks.

Designer Ryan Dawson Laight’s grungy world of unsavoury sea dogs is, one imagines, far closer to piratical reality, with their severed limbs, blood-spattered bandages, hook, muck and tattered threads.

All the elements are here: the creaky Admiral Benbow; the treasure map on which X marks the spot; mutiny; skirmishes with cannon and flintlock; treasure chest and Jolly Roger. But, as you’d expect from Creation, this is not just another conventional re-telling of the story.

The bad are deformed, cruel and greedy, but also elicit our sympathy. Long John Silver (Tom Wyatt) is a complex, multi-faceted character who we love and fear, and the good Doctor Trelivsey (Tom Richardson) is a gossiping, foolish dandy.

Only Young Jim, played by the bright-eyed Rosie Holt, remain constantly heroic. The fact Jim is a girl is surprising for about a second. Likewise for the other buccaneering roles also taken by women. Clare Humphrey is beyond fantastic as Bones, Arrow, Aha and Ben Gunn; adopting a new character the instant her old one dies. Her babbling drunken sailor is a particular highlight.

There are twists and gory surprises including a hilarious decapitation. And with the action in constant motion around us, we feel part of the crew – particularly when the cannon balls come flying. Tremendous fun with a wicked edge, this scurvy morality tale will leave you reeling – and grinning long after the sea shanties have faded away.

Move over Jack Sparrow, there’s a new crew in the Caribbean – and I wouldn’t fancy your chances!


Treasure Island continues at The North Wall until Jan 9.