A clear influence on Pirates of the Caribbean (and that’s the nearest to justifying including this here that I’m doing!) Treasure Island is another of those stories that everyone thinks they know well, but when it comes down to it, they only actually really know bits and pieces. Long John Silver, “pieces of eight”, “arrrrrrrrrr Jim Lad”, and maybe some of the names of the other characters tend to be the real extent of knowledge.
Barnaby Edwards’ rip-roaring production will rectify that lacuna, using a sensible framing device for audio (an older Jim is telling his son the tale as a bedtime story) that permits some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s descriptions to be retained, while making it clearly a drama, rather than an enhanced reading based on the novel. As adaptor and director, he’s also cast it well: Tom Baker, to probably no one on Earth’s surprise, makes a terrific parrot, reining in his performance when required, but going for broke when permitted – and he’s not too shabby as Captain Flint’s sidekick, Long John Silver either. Nicholas Farrell and Edward Holtom work well together as the various Hawkinses, with the latter carrying the responsibility of a lot of the tale very well. The rest of the parts are divided between a repertory company of Big Finish stalwarts – Tony Millan, Tony Haygarth, Nicholas Pegg, Gareth Armstrong, and Nicholas Briggs – with Edwards himself playing Squire Armstrong, and not a weak link among them.
With some great sound design, and period-appropriate music, this is a good reminder that Big Finish aren’t solely about sci-fi adventures; let’s have some more of these classics reworked.
Verdict: Punchy, energetic and great fun – everything you want (but sadly don’t always get) from a Pi-Rat story! 9/10
Our interview with Tom Baker about Long John Silver, the Doctor and much else besides will be posted early next week