Wednesday 11 December 2019

Treasure Island Review - Octagon Theatre, Bolton Christmas 2019 (Press Review)

Last night we were guests of Octagon Theatre, Bolton, to review this year's Christmas production - Treasure Island. With a big cast, lots of pirates, mutiny and treasure, this is a big show and they pulled it off beautifully.

The Octagon Theatre building is in the final stages of it's redevelopment, so the performance is at their temporary venue, Bolton Wanderers Football Ground at University Of Bolton Stadium. They've been there a while, but it's the first time we'd visited them there.

My two boys standing in front of large advertising board for Treasure Island

The venue is massive, and there is lots of free parking in Car Park A. It's a couple of minutes walk over to the main door, and when we arrived was lashing it down, so wear your big coat.

Inside is also not the warmest place as it's a huge open space with curtains to separate the bar/lobby area from the audience. It does warm up quite quickly once everyone is inside and seated, but dress warm for comfort.

Inside the auditorium audience seating Bolton Octagon at football stadium

The stage is MASSIVE! It is incredibly impressive and Bolton Octagon have made excellent use of all of that space, with a huge set. It leaves you under no doubt that what you are about to watch is a proper professional performance.

Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island is a classic, and it's been retold and translated to musical on stage by Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse. We start on dry land, with Jim Hawkins finding out about secret treasure buried by the now deceased Captain Flint. The map to the treasure is in the hands of infamous pirate Billy Bones, and when he meets an untimely end, Jim retrieves it.

Jim takes up the offer of passage from Squire Trelawney, and along with Dr Livesay and a motley crew of mainly incognito pirates, heads off to search for treasure....

Jim was female, which was a bit of a surprise at first and meant that the dynamic you see in the book between Jim and his mother doesn't really exist, but it worked. Amy Okumura-Jones plays the naive youngster well, and within minutes you forget Jim (short for Jemima) was ever a boy.

The acting, singing and music were excellent and the cast couldn't be faulted. They were amazingly talented musicians and music runs almost throughout, with plenty of folky sea songs, solos and big whole cast performances, including the highlight for my kids - the Cheese Song. Well worth the ticket price on it's own.

Special mentions have to go to the young cast. We had Team A, who were fantastic and looked like they had the confidence of 20 years on stage. There may be nothing like shouting 'Arrrrrrrrgh' at the top of your voice to warm up nicely, but they did themselves proud.

Long John Silver was also an incredibly confident performance, with actor Jack Lord really getting the role across perfectly. A Pirate, but not really an evil one. Most of the cast took two parts, which is always impressive, especially when also playing instruments. Henry Bauckham played Ben Gunn and Billy Bones, Ebony Feare was Mrs Hawkins and Captain Smollett, Heather Phoenix took Dr Livesay and Joyce, and Ben Simon was Squire Trelawney and Blind Pew.

Cast on stage Treasure Island Bolton Octagon Theatre review

At the end the main cast came back on stage for a final number and the audience were allowed to take photos and film. It's a really nice touch and in this world where we record so much of what we see, allows us to share without ruining the surprises in the actual show.

If you attend with children (or even if not), check out the programmes because The Octagon really do create excellent booklets, with puzzles and games, and proper cast and crew interviews. They are really well thought out and make a lovely memento of the evening.

Treasure Island Review - Octagon Theatre, Bolton Programme

A really big performance, which isn't what I was expecting from a temporary venue, and a great evening's entertainment. We all really enjoyed ourselves and we can all tell who's the pirate now, it's the person who answers 'Arrrrrrgh'...

The Octagon Theatre Bolton's production of Treasure Island will be showing until Saturday 28th December 2019. Times vary. Tickets £26-£15 (Child Tickets £4 less). For more information check the Octagon Theatre website (where you can watch an excellent 1 minute rehearsal trailer!) or ring 01204 520661 (Mon - Sat 9.30am – 4.30pm)

Audio Described performance Sunday 15th Dec 1pm
BSL supported performance Sunday 15th Dec 5.30pm
Relaxed performance Wednesday 18th Dec 2.15pm
Captioned performance Monday 23rd Dec 5.30pm


  1. It sounds fantastic. I remember taking the kids to see a performance of an all singing, audience participating of Treasure Island 4 years ago in Birmingham. It's not the same one, I checked, but it's very similar. I really love shows like this and Treasure is such a great story that can be adapted in many ways. x

    1. It does work so well with all of those pirates! Singing must have been something they did a lot for amusement :D


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