What is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Treasure Island? It’s pretty obvious that it’s the Muppets, right? When I think of Long John Silver it’s Tim Curry who comes to mind first. And why wouldn’t he? He’s perfect in the role. That whole film is perfect and it just goes to prove my theory that every book adaptation is better with the Muppets. I’d love to see loads of books get the Muppet treatment. Something super dark too. Like The Picture of Dorian Gray. Imagine that. Kermit can be Dorian meaning Miss Piggy can be Sibyl. Then Fozzie would be the perfect Basil. You’d have to have a human playing Lord Henry cause none of the Muppets is mean enough. But I think this will work. It could be amazing. But I feel like I’m getting majorly off-topic.
The Audible Original dramatisation of Treasure Island is a fantastic adaptation of a classic adventure story. It is really brought to life by an amazing cast including Catherine Tate, Philip Glenister, Owen Teale and Daniel Mays. These are some great British actors and I think every character has been pretty perfectly cast. Owen Teale, who most people will know as Ser Alliser Thorne from Game of Thrones is ideal as Long John Silver and Catherine Tate was born to play Jim’s shrill mother. The important thing about an audiobook is getting the right people to bring it to life and this is a cast who embody their roles.
Treasure Island is the tale of Jim Hawkins, the son of two innkeepers. When the mysterious Billy Bones turns up one night, Jim finds himself caught up in an adventure full of fear, treasure, and pirates. Billy is looking out for the one-legged man who he believes is out to get him. When Billy dies, Jim finds a treasure map that leads to a stash of pirate booty. Quickly, he is thrust onto the high seas and finds his life filled with adventure, treachery, mutiny, and murder. The boy finds himself drawn to the ship’s cook but he soon finds out that Long John Silver isn’t the decent sailor that he claims to be. When it turns out that most of the crew are actually pirates, the other sailors have to fight for their lives and the treasure they seek. With so many people out for themselves, Jim starts to have trouble figuring out who he can trust and who is the good guy.
Treasure Island is jampacked with adventure on the high seas. It has everything that you could want from a piratical adventure. There’s plenty of rum, singing, sword fighting, and talking parrots. This is the book that has inspired so many tales and you can see why. The pace builds as the book goes on and there are never any moments when you feel the action is lagging. Billy turns up early on and, from that moment, the story is in full swing. Which is exactly what you want from an adventure novel. We move from Jim’s quiet and boring life at the inn to the high seas. From there we experience danger and mysterious places. It’s a wild ride that everyone can enjoy.
Jim is regularly caught in the middle of the sailors and the pirates. He’s heard of how awful pirates are but he’s also been charmed by them. The story works so well because Jim is an innocent and naive young man trapped between two very different worlds. The pirates are characterised as being self-destructive and impulsive. They only care about themselves and don’t like to be held down by rules or authority. On the other hand, the sailors and Dr Livesy are the pragmatic and modest individuals who prefer rule and order. Yet, we are drawn to pirates like Long John, Billy, and Ben Gunn. On the flip side, Dr Livesy and Captain Smollett are too rigid and self-righteous for us to engage with them. We see Jim regularly exhibit both traits as he struggles to decide which side he belongs to.
Which leads to a lot of debate about who is right and who is wrong. One of the greatest aspects of the novel is the ambiguity of good and evil. Long John Silver is both someone who can charm and terrify Jim. He threatens the young man but also saves his life. Then there are the supposed good guys like Dr. Livesey and Captain Smollett. When it comes to the treasure, they are just as greedy and unscrupulous as the pirates. This is a novel that delves deep into human nature and the importance of reputation and status. It really brings an added depth to the simple pirate adventure as we see Jim go on an emotional journey as well as his literal journey.
This dramatisation is a faithful to the book but they manage to bring it up-to-date a little. It feels fresh and different enough from other adaptations of the book. The cast all do and wonderful job and the whole production really brings the story to life. I think this is the kind of book that really thrives on being told in this way. It drags you into the adventure and heightens the drama. Getting the right actor, it is easy to see why Jim is drawn to certain characters and not others. I would definitely recommend this dramatisation to everyone whether you love the book or haven’t read it.