The highly exuberant singing and dancing that seizes the audience on arrival demonstrates the boundless enthusiasm which is present in Sell a Door Theatre Company’s new touring adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s novel, Kidnapped, even if the introduction does go on a little too long.
Set in 1750s Scotland, against the backdrop of the Jacobite rebellion, the story follows the travels of a recently orphaned teenager, David Balfour, who seeks out his wealthy uncle Ebenezer. Duped into boarding a ship, young Davie is kidnapped and discovers he has been sold into slavery by his bitter, miserly uncle. He befriends a Jacobite, Alan Breck Stewart, who helps him escape, but then the new companions find themselves shipwrecked, accused of murder and on the run.
As emerging playwright Ivan Wilkinson’s first play, Kidnapped has all the elements of Stevenson’s coming of age novel. Originally written as a ‘Boys Own’ adventure, Wilkinson skilfully manages to retain the purity and historical framework of young Davie’s journey, as well as making it accessible to a contemporary family audience and augmenting it with some truly comedic moments.
Using physical storytelling, the action comes by way of recollection. Jamie Laird is softly paternal as the omnipresent older Davie observing his younger counterpart undergoing the trials of the journey, whilst gently commentating throughout the action.
A tale of friendship, loyalty and politics, it is young Davie’s path to adulthood that appeals to adults and children alike and this is competently handled in both the script and the acting.
Stewart McCheyne’s passionate childish intensity as the young Davie marries well with the strength and vigour of his manly companion, Alan Breck Stewart (Simon Weir), as well as being compellingly matched with the unpleasant volatility of Christopher Anderton’s evil uncle and the innocence of Lesley Cook’s Ransome.
In the capable hands of director Anna Fox the whole play displays a boundless energy. Add to that the ingenious devices such as two stools to simulate the climbing of stairs, puppetry which brings malignity to one scene and comedy to another, and scenery which cleverly oscillates between home, ship and castle, and this really feels like a proficient adaptation.
Supported by Maddy Mutch’s movement direction, the talented ensemble of five actors skilfully make a credible descent into water during the shipwreck scene, which is further enhanced by superb lighting and mood music.
Despite the slightly protracted nature of the play’s musical introduction, the refrains of ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’ and ‘Charlie Is My Darling’ are pleasantly infectious, as is the sustained vitality of the performance, leaving audiences feeling captivated, rather than captured, by this truly swashbuckling production of Kidnapped.
Stamford Arts Centre – 6th February 2014.
Sell a Door Theatre Company are touring Kidnapped at theatres throughout the UK till May 2014.
Remaining tour dates are:
7-8 Feb | Halifax, Victoria Theatre
10-12 Feb | Windsor, Theatre Royal
13 Feb | Leeds Carriageworks
14 Feb | Richmond, Georgian Theatre Royal
15 Feb | Welwyn Garden City, Hawthrone Theatre
18 Feb | Braintree, Arts Centre
19-20 Feb | Guildford, Yvonne Arnauld
22 Feb | Monmouth Savoy
24 Feb | Llandudno, Venue Cymru
25-26 Feb | Horsham, Capitol Theatre
3-5 Mar | Birmingham, New Alexandra Theatre
6-8 Mar | Swansea, Grand Theatre
10 Mar | Bathgate, Regal Theatre
11 Mar | Glasgow, Eastwood Park Theatre
12-13 Mar | Dunfermline, Carnegie Hall
23 Mar | Margate, Theatre Royal
27 Mar | Medway, Brook Theatre
28 Mar | Hexham, Queens Halls
29 Mar | Chesterﬁeld, Pomegranate Theatre
30 Mar | Bracknell, Southhill Park Arts Centre
7-9 April | London, Greenwich Theatre
10 April | Dundee Rep
11 April | Musselburgh, Brunton Theatre
12 April | Ayrshire, Gaiety Theatre
13 April | Motherwell Theatre
6 May | Andover, The Lights
8-10 May | London, Hackney Empire
16 May | Peterborough, Key Theatre
17 May | Tewkesbury, Roses Theatre
20 May | Maidenhead, Norden Park Arts Centre
21 May | High Wycombe, Town Hall
23 May | Epsom Playhouse
24 May | Wolverhampton, Arena Theatre
26-31 May | Coventry, Belgrade Theatre