Pros: Filthy jokes, entertaining performances and a professional set.
Cons: Lost a bit of fizz in the second half, and definitely not family viewing.
The phone rang: “Wake-Walker, I need you here in 15 minutes.” “OK,” I replied. I was as good as my word. As I walked up to Everything Theatre Headquarters, crossing the moat and pushing open the cast iron door, I had a feeling something big was about to happen. James Hodgson, ET’s joint-managing editor, greeted me in the East Wing boardroom. “I gots a job for you, Wake-Walker.” He took a long drag from his cigar. “Something you ain’ts gonna wanna turn down.” He stared at me with those cold, steely eyes. Finally, he spoke again. “Two words: Treasure Island.” My heart skipped a beat. Treasure Island. Just about to open at The National Theatre. The National Theatre! I saw Russell Brand there once! My days as a hard-up theatre reviewer were finally at an end!
As it turned out, it was more than two words. Eight, in fact. And rather than hob-nobbing with celeb audiences, I was in that other well-known haven for cocks: Vauxhall. This was Treasure Island, the Curse of the Pearl Necklace, an adult pantomime performed at LGBT theatre Above the Stag. The title very much laid down a marker for the evening: nothing was off-limits – gang bangs, fisting – and these were just the political satire. All I can say is thank God my plus-one was my boss rather than my 9-year-old nephew (although sometimes I find it hard to tell between the two…).
Clearly the huge quantity of smut was the main attraction for the packed audience, but to the show’s credit it still managed to maintain an intriguing narrative. As is often the case with farces, a long, jam-packed and highly entertaining first half was not matched by a shorter and looser second, but there was still a hell of a lot of fun to be had throughout. Ridiculous musical numbers, some brilliant asides and incredibly dark jokes that popped out of nowhere kept the laughs coming like Cyril Smith to a Rochdale school (if that joke was too offensive, then the show’s probably not for you).
There was a lot of off-the-cuff audience interaction – some of which was a bit stiff but as it was a first performance this is something that can be improved on across the run. If some of the acting was a little unpolished, the set certainly wasn’t. It was a sturdy and detailed build, that effortlessly transformed from hotel interior to ship’s deck. I realise I haven’t outlined the plot but, frankly, it’s too bonkers to recount. It kind of felt like when a toddler tells you about their dream after drinking too much Fanta.
So, it’s fair to say this is not a production Nicholas Hytner will be getting on board with any time soon, but thankfully that means there’s still a market for shows that aren’t overly-oiled, sugar-coated schmaltz. As for me, I’ll content myself with earning a living finding theatrical gems under South London railway arches. I mean, how else am I going to pay for James’ Secret Santa?
Authors: Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper
Director: Andrew Beckett
Producer: Peter Bull for Above the Stag Theatre Company
Showing: Sat 10 January 2015
Box Office: www.abovethestag.com; for group bookings email firstname.lastname@example.org