Review: My Treasure Island!!! (Johnson Girls)

My Treasure Island!!!

My Treasure Island!!!, presented by Johnson Girls, is unapologetically hilarious theatre

On Wednesday night, I stepped out of the cold and into a production of My Treasure Island!!! at the Theatre Passe Muraille backspace. Presented by Johnson Girls with the support of Passe Muraille, this show is an adaptation of a book – Sara Levine’s Treasure Island!!! – about a woman’s obsession with a book – Robert Louis Stevenson’s exclamation mark-free classic Treasure Island. It takes the audience on a fun adventure and offers some gasps and laughs along the way.

I’ll admit I was in a great mood right off the top – a result of having a) been given free snacks during the pre-show chat and b) heard great music during the pre-show setup. (Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran? It’s like they planned it just for me…). I haven’t read Levine’s novel, and can’t remember when I last read Stevenson’s, and though I wish I had brushed up a bit on my Jim Hawkins knowledge before going, it was still a delightful ride.

The stage was transformed into an island of sorts – cute green and pink tropical curtains, a treasure chest, a parrot. There was a nice breakup lighting effect hitting the back wall which added to the tropical feel. It was a nice detail in an otherwise very simple lighting design by Christopher Ross – simple because there was no need for it to be complicated, as the action of the show was described more than it was actually acted out.

It felt a bit like a show-within-a-show, as the main character spoke directly to us as audience members. It was slightly confusing to figure out whether she was meant to be putting on a production, whether it was just her working through the journey she had taken in her psyche, or whether she was simply telling us a story. Whatever the answer, it worked. I liked feeling like a part of things, and Caitlin Driscoll as Our Girl was an engaging and highly entertaining storyteller.

Driscoll’s energy was contagious, her excitement palpable. Her character becomes very intensely obsessed with Treasure Island, the book, identifying its ‘core values’ – boldness, resolution, independence and horn-blowing – and deciding to make an effort to incorporate those values into her own life. With the help of Little Richard, a fine-feathered, feisty parrot operated with ease and hilarity by Gemma James-Smith, we hear how she succeeds – or, at least, attempts to. All of the other characters, including Our Girl’s mother, sister, boss, best friend and boyfriend, are played by James-Smith through Little Richard the parrot, and the voices and personalities she gave to each were hysterical and impressive.

Karen Woolridge’s script is quick, surprising and incredibly funny. My friend and I were the ones awkwardly but unapologetically laughing out loud at many parts of the show, including at our personal favourite line about Our Girl having dressed in such a way as ‘to inspire major regret’ in an ex-boyfriend when she saw him after they had broken up. We’ve so been there.

Driscoll, in her equestrian-esque outfit (which I would like to steal once the show closes…) carried the show along and never faltered or lost the audience’s attention. She was riveting, funny and charismatic, and James-Smith was just as enjoyable in her many roles. Did I mention the show was funny?

The last ten minutes are where the real magic happens – where the adventure takes off. Though I can’t promise any actual horn-blowing, I can promise you a bold ending, with maybe just the right amount of silliness and surprise.

Details:

  • My Treasure Island!!! is playing until November 16th at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
  • Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30PM, with matinees at 2:00PM on Saturday & Sundays
  • Tickets for evening performances are $33 for adults, $28 for seniors & arts workers, $17 for under 30. Weekend matinees are $22.50 in advance or PWYC in person at the door beginning at 12:00PM. Groups of 10 or more can get a group rate of $25 per ticket.
  • Tickets are available online or by phone at 416-504-7529.

Photo of Caitlin Driscoll and Gemma James-Smith provided by the Company

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