On the 27th November 2007, I attended a performance of “Treasure Island” at Derby Playhouse. During this performance, the design of one scene in particular surprised me: the first scene of the second act, in which Jim arrives on Treasure Island and meets Ben Gunn. The creation of the Hispaniola ship and its movement was both memorable and surprising. Its creation was even integrated into the acting and melodramatic/musical style of the piece, as the actors built a small rowing boat from benches at the beginning of the scene and incorporated this into a dance. This served the dual-purpose of both entertaining the audience and creating the necessary staging. The main ship itself was on a small truck so it could be easily moved around. This ease of movement was then combined with the use of a revolve-stage, creating a surprisingly authentic representation of a ship’s journey over moving water.Order now
Other staging/design aspects helped to create this authentic journey. The projection of a moving map on a cyclorama at the back of the stage, showed the ship’s progress to the audience, therefore, effectively communicating the idea that the ship was moving. The use of dappled blue lighting and sound effects of waves crashing against a beach also helped set the scene in a surprisingly effective way. The lighting was also used to give a rippling light effect to give the impression of the sun’s rays on the ocean’s surface, which helped to make the concept of the journey more believable for the audience.
Later in the same scene, daggers were used as props. The daggers were not modern in style, and therefore helped to communicate the period of the piece (eighteenth century) to the audience so the historical context of the scene was surprisingly authentic to the audience. The use of sound effects for the fire from the rifles also helped to achieve this. When Jim arrived on the island, a green curtain was used to show the jungle’s foliage and split the stage in half.
This communicated the location of the scene surprisingly effectively. Vertical slits had been cut into the curtain and Ben Gunn used these slits to great comical effect. The slits also facilitated Ben’s arrival onstage and helped to make his entrance surprising. There was an audible gasp from the audience when Gunn emerged from behind the curtain and as he continued to dart through the slits, the audience began to laugh.
Another surprising element of design in the scene, was the use of a puppet held by an actor to represent the parrot. The puppet was on a long pole, which was then swung by an actor dressed in bright clothing to show the parrot in flight. This was comical to the audience and surprising as it was a new interpretation on the piece. The costumes also added to the authenticity of the performance, which was particularly important as Treasure Island is a period piece. Overall, the performance was highly enjoyable with several interesting staging elements.