Treasure Island - The Pantomime: Theatre
Theatre Review: The annual panto at Circa. This year it's Treasure Island. Treasure abounds!
Treasure Island: The Pantomime
Direction: Gavin Rutherford (written by Simon Leary & Gavin Rutherford)
Circa Theatre; Circa One (Nov 18 – Dec 23, 2002 / 2-13 January 2024)
We have been attending the Circa Pantomime on and off - though mostly on - for much of the last two decades. And in a variety of contexts. First, it was as a friend of one of the cast members, going along for a laugh to see how he did. Then it was as a reviewer. And of course, as a parent. And that created the great comic usurping where I started attending as the “+1”. My son, Oscar, the pantomime reviewer! He got the bug when he was about six and for most of the last few years he’s been writing about the panto, taking us along with him.
We’ve now settled on it just being a great family outing. And maybe Oscar’s getting to the age where it will soon be a bit ‘cringe’ to be out in public with old mum and dad, but we were stoked that he still wanted to come along this year. We are definitely committed to just heading along now every year, even without a child, it’s family entertainment after all - great for the kids, sure. But you don’t need to feel you have to take your own children, or neices or nephews or grandchildren. Brilliant, if you can. But just go and enjoy it. Oscar was stoked, this year, to pick up on way more of the innuendo than has previously been the case. So that might get him back along for future panto seasons.
Anyway, to Treasure Island, as with last year’s wonderful Pinnochio, the team of Simon Leary and Gavin Rutherford (both erstwhile longtime panto cast regulars) have returned to write (and Gavin to direct) a winning, fresh-formula take on the format that relies less on seasonal folly, and has heart and silliness all of its own, as well as fostering in the new cast of panto regulars.
Jthan Morgan, now established as the replacement pantomime Dame is so good in this role, so fully owning of the space, and so welcoming and celebratory. The singing feels like it notches up a level every year with the younger cast members, and the return of Bronwyn Turei this year really added some lungs to the group singalongs.
Of course the bones of the classic story are there simply to hang a new set of gags across - and the cast has a lot of fun with puns, and, with great skill, talks completely over the heads of the youngest audience members, without ever boring them. It is all kept light and breezy but with plenty of laughs, and with a lot of excellent technical skill that reaches beyond just the lights and music. Puppetry is now more fully integrated, and the staging is clever in its simplicity.
I loved the Wellington cheap-shots, the song selections, the choreography, the chemistry of the cast, and the overall vibe - it’s about entertainment, it need not be cleverer than that.
It solidifies the great work from last year, confirming the panto in its updated clothes. It’s all about inclusion and equal opportunities, all about heart and soul and profound silliness. And I’m here for it. Every year.