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Stevenson's Pirates

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Nagpur-based theatre producer-director and occasional actor, Vikash Khurana picks unusual stories for the children’s plays he does, like Kenneth Grahame’s 'The Wind In The Willows' adapted for the stage, or Enid Blyton’s books and now Robert Louis Stevenson’s eighteenth century pirate adventure 'Treasure Island'.

If at all kids today know of pirates, it would be through the 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' movie franchise, which in turn was based on a theme park attraction. However, pirates have been part of fiction and folklore and names like Sir Francis Drake, Captain Hook and Long John Silvermust ring a bell.

Khurana has simplified 'Treasure Island' considerably and toned down the violence, so kids could enjoy the story without being frightened. He has also added humour, some song-and-dance and turned Squire Trelawney into a woman (why should boys have all the fun?).

The protagonist is young Jim Hawkins (Amol Wakhare), who helps out with his mother’s inn, where a pirate Billy Bones has come to stay with his mysterious sea chest. Billy dies as pirates land in the inn to look for him and hand him the dreaded black spot – a sign of guilt. Jim searches Billy’s trunk and finds some coins and a treasure map of the island where Pirate Flint had buried his loot.

He shows the map to Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney, who decide to sail on the Hispaniola to hunt for the treasure and take Jim along as the cabin boy. Among the men hired for the voyage is the one-legged Long John Silver, who is a pirate from Flint’s crew and teaches Jim a valuable lesson about trust. He plans a mutiny to take over the ship and look for the treasure himself. But Dr. Livesey has substituted the real map with a fake one, keeping just this eventuality in mind.

Jim lands on the island where he runs into the wild Ben Gunn (Omkar Ghare) who was marooned on the island and who with his strange outfit and white hair, provides the comic relief.

In the original story there was much fighting and killing, but Khurana has made it light-hearted and got his team of pirates with red bandanas, sabres and pistols, to whoop it up on stage, with its simple but effective design. Perhaps some of the kids who watch the play might be tempted to pick up the book and be transported to another time, another place and a fantastic adventure.

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