Treasure Island: The Pantomime

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

18/11/2023 - 23/11/2023

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

02/01/2024 - 13/01/2024

Production Details

by Simon Leary & Gavin Rutherford
Directed by Gavin Rutherford
Musical Direction & Arrangements by Michael Nicholas Williams

Circa Theatre

Discover the greatest treasure of Wellington summer — the Circa Theatre pantomime!

Set sail with Orphan Jim, his dog Patch, and Aunt Peggy Legg to find the pirate treasure. With comedy and capers for the whole whānau, this adventure is not all song and dance… Watch out for Kraken, lava, and booby traps!

Is the mysterious young witch a trustworthy friend or will she give them the Black Spot? Will Long John Silver steal the map and scupper their plans? Journey from Port Knickerson, past the rocky shores of Johnsonville, to fight off the BureaucRats of Molesworth Street.

With overboard gags, tropical references and salty shanties that’ll raise your Jolly Roger and take you on an expedition to find the greatest treasure of all: Love and acceptance.

Naaah. Just kidding. There’s actual gold!

Circa Theatre, 18 November – 23 December | 2 – 13 January
6:30pm Tues – Sat | 4pm Sun, tickets $18 – $55
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Jim - Reuben Romanos
Aunt Peggy Legg - Jthan Morgan (Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Magiagi, Sapapāli'i, Lotofaga)
Long John Silver - Kathleen Burns
Smee - Tawhi Thomas (Ngāti Maniapoto)
Sabrina - Natasha McAllister
Patch - Jackson Burling
Billy Bones & Oracle - Bronwyn Turei (Ngāti Porou)

Swing Performer: Rachel McSweeney

Musician: Michael Nicholas Williams (2023), Johnathan Powell (2024)

Set Design: Ian Harman
Costume Design: Sheila Horton
Light Design: Marcus McShane
Choreography: Natasha McAllister & Jthan Morgan

Stage Manager: Natasha Thyne
Lighting Operator: Deb McGuire | Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāi Tahu
Sound Engineer & Operator: Patrick Barnes

Publicity: Eleanor Strathern
Graphic Design: High Town Studio
Photography: Roc Torio

Costume Assistant: Maysie Pyatt
Costume Construction: Sharon Johnstone
Set Construction: John Hodgkins
Puppet Maker: Jon Coddington
and the voice of Karin McCracken as Carin the Kraken

Pantomime , Theatre ,

120 minutes, including interval

Jthan Morgan ‘unquestionable star’ in Circa’s panto

Review by Nicholas Holm 27th Nov 2023

Everyone loves a pirate. Swashbuckling, plank-walking, rum-swilling: pirates live their lives to the fullest and the loudest and, as such, provide the perfect characters for a pantomime. Playing fast and loose (in multiple ways) with the source material, this year’s Circa pantomime adapts the most famous pirate story of all, Treasure Island, as an exuberant and charismatic spectacle for the whole family with joyful performances, show-stopping song-and-dance, and even the occasional magic trick.

If you’re familiar with the story, you’ll know that Jim Hawkins comes into possession of a treasure map and sets off on an adventure pursued by the villainous Long John Silver. However, if you are familiar, you might not expect that in this telling Jim’s aunt decides to come along for the ride, his loyal dog is given the magical power to speak, and even a kraken turns up to menace the voyage. A story already packed with adventure becomes bigger, sillier, and more chaotic. [More]


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A treasure in itself that families of all persuasions will enjoy

Review by John Smythe 19th Nov 2023

The Circa Theatre panto set, designed by Ian Harman, somewhat spookily features a couple of large blue crosses which could, at a squint, evoke sailing ship masts. Up front, however, is a sign: Jolly Roger Hall – a punny tribute to the playwright whose panto scripts instigated the Circa panto tradition in 2005. It sparks a good gag about him before being whisked away.

Since 2013 Circa panto stalwarts Simon Leary and Gavin Rutherford have been writing them, with Rutherford dropping the Dame drag to become Susan Wilson’s successor as Director last year (of Pinocchio the Pantomime). Along with Musical Director Michael Nicholas Williams, who has been the common denominator throughout, success continues to mark their annual contributions to the festive season.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island doesn’t immediately spring to mind as fodder for pantomimefication. A bloodthirsty coming-of-age story for boys, of buccaneers and buried gold, it was originally serialised in a British children’s magazine before being published as a book in 1883. Its rollcall of seven major and 24 minor characters includes just one female, the mother of Jim Hawkins.

Jim’s innkeeper father dies early in Stevenson’s story so Mum Hawkins might well have been cast as “the poor lonely widow woman”. But Leary and Rutherford have better ideas. Their Jim is an orphan whose extremely rich parents were lost at sea, murdered by pirates, along with their gold, lovingly stamped with the face of their child. So Jim has grown up under the care of his Aunt Peggy Leg. Their house has been burnt down (is that where ruthless landlords get a serve?) and now Jim wants to get away – cue ‘Anchor Me’ (The Mutton Birds).

A dog, who was chucked overboard by a ruthless pirate who called him a bad dog, is rescued by Jim who gets us to reassure him he’s a good dog. Long John Silver, who has values akin to the Act Party, is raging against Billy Bones over something he lost 18 years ago. A serving wench called Sabrina – who I think has abandoned Silver’s pirate ship or was she made to walk the plank (we really have to concentrate to catch all the details) – has magical powers which will save Aunt Peggy’s life more than once.

Blind Pew turns up briefly to deliver the portentous Black Spot to Billy Bones then dies before he can reveal the secret of the lost Treasure Map. Aboard the pirate ship, Smee (borrowed from J M Barrie’s Peter Pan) can’t understand how tides work – provoking a clever ‘high tide time / Haitaitai (sic)’ gag.

A litany of treachery and opportunism tries to trace what happened to the Treasure Map. When (spoiler alert but how else can I exemplify the cheeky cleverness of the script) Patch vomits it up, Jim, Patch, Aunt Peggy and Sabrina know what to do with their lives. Cue ‘Kokomo’ (Beach Boys), enumerating a wealth of exotic locations. 

It turns out the treasure has been buried at the Beehive Volcano on Molesworth Island. But who will give them a lift there? Aunt Peggy’s feminine wiles do the trick with Long John Silver and off they go on his ship.

Jthan Morgan (she/he/ia) confirms their panto dame claim as Aunt Peggy Legg, rolling out the signature tropes with wit, charm and a touch of risqué. While in the past this role has tended to ‘star’, with the others in support, there is more of an ensemble feel with this production.

Reuben Ramanos is a fine young Jim. At one point he displays a card trick which he claims to be as scientific as his beloved astronomy, as opposed to the astrology Natasha McAllister’s impressive Sabrina believes in. Will these opposites prove attractive to each other? I’ll offer no spoilers in that regard.

It is fortunate, however, that Sabrina’s sorcery transforms yapping puppet Patch into a human size dog with the power of speech, endearingly embodied by Jackson Burling. I’ll say no more except to remind you there’s always a love story in every panto.

Kathleen Burns relishes the wickedness of Long John Silver in a truly intriguing performance that transcends the stereotypical villain. After his fearsome Blind Pew, Tawhi Thomas gives us a delightfully dim Smee whose sea-tossed fate at the tentacles of the mythical Kraken is especially memorable. And later, Carin the Kraken is voiced by who else but Karin McCracken.

Along with the troubled Billy Bones, the brilliant Bronwyn Turei literally pops up as a slew of differently characterised pirates before manifesting as the Oracle, an all-powerful Bureaucrat of the Beehive Volcano. While I love her channelling of many kuia, nannies and aunties we’ve known, I can’t quite reconcile that with the bureaucrat role, especially when the rat dimension is made explicit in the gold-tailed costuming. But maybe I’m thinking too much political Beehive and not enough mythical Volcano.

Shelia Horton’s costume designs (constructed by Sharon Johnstone) are superb, colourfully amplifying the characters and enlivening the action along with Marcus McShane’s ingenious lighting (operated by Deb McGuire) which brings many moods to the many locations embedded in Harman’s set.

As the treasure-hunters move inexorably through their encounters with pirates, possible mutinies, traps, lava and impending eruptions, they excel in their exquisite deliveries of multiple songs with choreography by Jthan Morgan and Natasha McAllister.  

Along with those already mentioned, the songs include the original and much-loved ‘Pantomime Whirl’, ‘Let’s get the Party Started’ (Pink), ‘Stop Right Now’ (Spice Girls), ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ (Tiffany), ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ (Pat Benatar), ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made of This’ (Eurythmics), ‘To Be With You’ (Mr Big), ‘The Name Game’ (Shirley Ellis), ‘I’m Still Standing’ (Elton John) and (Let’s go out with a) ‘Bang!’ (AJR).

This selection of songs by MD Michael Nicholas Williams is inspired, as is his live musicianship at the keyboard – and Sound Engineer and Operator Patrick Barnes blends it all together beautifully.

If course the treasure is found, thanks to Patch – and what it reveals is a different sort of treasure that subverts our expectations of the typical romantic ending. This Circa panto is a treasure in itself that families of all persuasions will enjoy.


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