Festive show sets sail

Treaure Island
Treaure Island

It’s anchors aweigh for The Dukes this week as the Lancaster theatre prepares to welcome landlubbers on a sail of the century.

The Dukes has been entertaining schools and families at Christmas for more than 40 years but this will be the first opportunity for audiences to see a play in The Round at this time of year.

“I’ve wanted to do a Christmas show in The Round ever since I came here in 2008,” said Joe Sumsion, who is directing Treasure Island.

“We’re adapting how the theatre works for this show which is exciting.

“When the audience come through the doors, they’ll be entering another world and when the cast are on the boat, the audience will feel like they’re on the boat too.

“It will be a completely different audience experience even for those who’ve seen our shows in The Round before.

“In our version, Treasure Island is the most amazing journey that a child can go on.

“I think people love the idea of adventure on the high seas and, for us, theatrically, there’s lots of exciting potential.”

Although the play is set on a faraway island, it begins and ends on Morecambe Bay as Joe wanted The Dukes’ proximity to the sea to be reflected in this new adaptation.

The Robert Louis Stevenson classic will be funfilled and is to have a modern twist courtesy of Debbie Oates, who writes for theatre, radio and television, where she has written for Coronation Street among other popular programmes.

Debbie and Joe both agreed this boy’s own story should be turned on its head and feature strong female characters too, so Jim Hawkins is replaced by a 12-year-old girl called Jem.

This central role is played by Nisa Cole, who was seen at The Dukes this summer as Jennet Device in the Lancashire Witches drama, Sabbat.

Her television appearances include playing schoolgirl Amy Porter in three series of BBC1’s Waterloo Road.

Jem’s adventure begins after she has an argument with her family just before Christmas and runs down to the beach at Sunderland Point.

During the night, Gem is whisked away to Treasure Island where she meets an array of familiar characters including Long John Silver and Ben Gunn.

During their adventures, there’s drama and comedy aplenty as well as lots of catchy songs.

Treasure Island runs from November 23 to January 5.

To book tickets, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or go to www.dukes-lancaster.org.