Treasure Island: An Audible Original Drama

Yo! Ho! Ho!

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

An Audible Original full cast dramatisation starring Oliver Teale, Daniel Mays, Catherine Tate and Philip Glenister. Dramatised by Marty Ross from the original by Robert Louis Stevenson.

When I re-read Treasure Island a few years ago, I fell in love with it all over again. It’s undoubtedly one of the best adventure stories ever written, full of characters who’ve become such a part of our national psyche they almost feel historical rather than fictional – Long John Silver, Blind Pew, Ben Gunn, Jim Hawkins (arr, Jim, lad!), et al. Even younger people who may not have read the book will recognise these characters even if they don’t recognise the names, since they’ve been used and adapted in nearly every pirate book or movie ever since – the wooden-legged pirate with a parrot on his shoulder (Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! Squa-a-a-wk!), the young boy caught up in piratical adventures on the high seas, the sailor marooned – maroooned, I tell ‘ee! – on a desert island, the villainous baddie bringing messages of doom, the treasure map where X marks the spot…

So needless to say, when I was offered the chance to listen to Audible’s new dramatisation, I grabbed it with both hands, dug out a bottle of rum, and set sail for lands unknown, me hearties! And that was even before I read the cast list and realised they’d gone all out to get some of the absolute best. Gotta say, every single member of the cast, stars and supporting, throw themselves into this with glee – you can literally hear how much fun they’re having bringing these fabulously over-the-top characters to life.

My memory for plot details is totally rubbish, but as far as I could tell the adaptation sticks very faithfully to the original. There’s a little more humour in it than I remembered so perhaps a few scenes have been altered for that purpose. At first, when the action is in the Admiral Benbow Inn where young Jim-lad lives with his mother (played excellently by Catherine Tate), I thought they had maybe lightened it up a bit to make it suitable for younger children. But indeed not! Some parts of it are very dark indeed, and the cast don’t skimp on bringing out the scary bits. And somehow hearing it rather than reading it made those parts even more effective – genuinely thrilling! Black Dog in particular scared the bejabers out of me, and I think I fall safely into the category of older child.

Although it’s a dramatisation, it’s not abridged. It has a running time of 6 hours and 26 minutes which is almost identical to the timing on straight narrations. Jim Hawkins (Gerran Howell) acts his role in the action sequences, but also provides a narration for the linking bits. Rather unfairly, he doesn’t get listed as one of the stars, but he gives an excellent performance too. Oliver Teale is utterly brilliant as Long John Silver, and Daniel Mays’ Ben Gunn is so much fun – marooned! Maroooooned, I tell ‘ee!! Philip Glenister is perfect as Doctor Livesey. The only thing that annoyed me is that Audible never provides a written cast list for these productions, and the cast list on the recording is always at the end, so I find I’m constantly trying to work out who’s playing whom, especially when they’re all having so much fun with accents. In this case, even when they did list the cast, they didn’t specify which role each actor had played. I think several of them play more than one role, but there are also loads of other actors playing some of the smaller roles. I’m almost certain it’s Daniel Mays giving a tour-de-force performance as Capt’n Flint the parrot, who starts out as part of the humour and gets progressively scarier as the thing goes on.

There’s some appropriately sea-shanty style incidental music and the sound effects are great – waves crashing, ships creaking, cutlasses clashing, big guns booming (jumped a foot in the air when that happened – and I was sitting down at the time. Tuppence was not pleased!). And I warn you now, not only will you find yourself joining in whenever they burst into a full-cast rendition of Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest, but you’ll still be singing it two weeks later – or maybe that’s just me…

Can you tell I loved this? I enjoyed every single minute of it and instead of parcelling it out into half-hour instalments as I usually do with audiobooks, I ended up listening to the bulk of it in two massive chunks over one weekend. It will be one I listen to often again – perfect for dark winter nights or long car journeys or just whenever I’m accosted by the need to hear Ben Gunn tell me again that he’s marooned – marooooooooned, I tell ‘ee! Dark and scary with shafts of humour, tons of action, thrilling adventures, great script, fabulous acting – Yo! Ho! HO!

NB This audiobook was provided for review by Audible UK via MidasPR.

Audible UK Link
Audible US Link

63 thoughts on “Treasure Island: An Audible Original Drama

  1. Oh, this sounds such FUN! I am actually grinning ear-to-ear just reading the review! I never need an excuse to sing sea shanties, I tell you. This would suit me perfectly on drives to and from Derbyshire – if I don’t drive too fast I can do the whole thing in one round trip!

  2. My memories of Treasure Isaland are not of the book but of a theatre adaptation many years ago at the old Birmingham Rep. Principally I remember a real dog running round in the Admiral Benbow (he belonged to one of the actors and was called Dougal because he looked like his namesake from The Magic Roundabout) and having the most wonderful time of his life. He was also Moonshine’s dog in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but that’s another story.

    • Hahaha – the dog must have been written in specially for that adaptation! It’s one of these great adventures that really lends itself to all kinds of adaptations though – and I suspect at heart all actors really want to play pirates at least once in their career. This lot certainly enjoyed themselves! Now I want to watch some of the movie adaptations…

  3. Oh, this sounds fabulous, FictionFan! It is a classic, isn’t it? And it’s so good to hear that the cast members did such an effective job with the story. That makes it all the better, when the narrators really get into their roles. What fun!

    • Some stories just take on a life of their own, don’t they? And this lot of actors were so obviously relishing the roles – I suppose every actor wants to play a pirate at some point in their life! Great fun – I really want to listen to it all over again now… 😀

    • Hahaha – I tried to write a serious review but I just kept hearing that parrot and Ben Gunn in my ear, tempting me! 😉 It’s super fun – I hope you do get a chance to hear it! (Those Audible memberships are pricey though, aren’t they? It does seem odd to me that an audiobook should be so much more expensive than a film…)

  4. You’ve fired me up to check this one out, FF — it sounds fabulous! Poor Tuppence. I’m sure hearing big guns go off and watching you jump discombobulated her (you can always reassure yourself that you were unconsciously preparing her for Halloween!!)

    • Isn’t it? And they all threw themselves into it – I suspect they’d all wanted to play pirates all their lives! Haha – Fifteen Men became my dishwashing song for weeks after this… 😉

  5. This sounds like a great time! And I have to say, that if you’re ever in the mood for a fun-but-weirdly-faithful-to-the-original rendition of Treasure Island, you really ought to watch the Muppets version. I was so surprised when I read the actual book that large chunks of the Muppet version are word-for-word! (The same with A Christmas Carol… who would have thought?!)

    • Ooh, I wonder if it’s on youtube – must check! The Muppets were kinda at that time when I was too old for childish things as a child, and too young for childish things as an adult! Fortunately I’m old enough now to be childish whenever I want… 😉

      • I’ve never been a huge fan of the Muppet Show or the regular Muppet movies (I mean, they’re alright, just not my complete faves), but Treasure Island and Christmas Carol are both classics in our family. I’m really not sure how a version of Christmas Carol wherein Tiny Tim is played by a small frog can still bring a tear to your eye, but it does! The music in both movies is done quite well, too.

  6. For goodness sake, L., I laughed my ass off while I was reading your review! I wish we lived next door so we could hang out every day 😀

    I love dramatizations, but I didn’t know much about them until I met my husband in college. He was a Broadcasting & Cinematic Arts major, so at one point he was directing a radio play of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. It was so fun hearing him come up with sound effects and working with the voice actors. I’ve since listened to some Tales from the Crypt and The Air Adventures Of Biggles. If you go on YouTube, there are tons of radio plays uploaded there.

    Have you heard of Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine? It sounds like something you could get behind. Here is a snippet of the plot:

    “When a college graduate with a history of hapless jobs reads Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island, she is dumbstruck by the timid design of her life. When had she ever dreamed a scheme? When had she ever done a foolish, overbold act? When had she ever, like Jim Hawkins, broke from her friends, raced for the beach, stolen a boat, killed a man, and eliminated an obstacle that stood in the way of her getting a hunk of gold?”

    And might I just add with this: when I was a kid, I was obsessed with Muppet Treasure Island. I sang those damn songs too much. I wanted to be a pirate.

    • Hahaha – me too! We could dress up as pirates and maraud around the town! 😀 😀

      Oh, that must have been fun – is it something he went on with after graduating? I think it might be more fun than stage-acting – they have to do it all with their voices, and this lot had great fun with accents and creating personalities. Ooh, Biggles! I must see if any of them are on youtube – I LOVED Biggles when I was a kid! (Secretly, I still make aircraft noises and fire imaginary ack-ack guns every time I fly…)

      Sounds intriguing – I shall investigate further! Not sure killing a man is one of those lessons we should take from the book though… 😉

      Hahaha – we’ve clearly uncovered a whole hidden horde of Muppet fans here…!!

      • All of the Biggles radio episodes are on YouTube. My husband applied for several jobs in radio after he graduated, but that was the year the recession hit hard. He’s been in IT for the last nine years, but he loves that field, too.

        • Hurrah – I must have a listen! Yeah, unfortunately creative jobs tend to be the first to be hit when there’s any kind of recession, but I’m glad he found something else he enjoyed.

  7. You’ve almost convinced me to revisit this, in audible format because I didn’t enjoy the book as a child, but maybe as I also fall into the category of ‘older child’ the adventures, humour and black dog will appeal more.

    • Truthfully, the performances are so much fun that even if you didn’t enjoy the story you’d probably enjoy their acting. Especially that parrot – squa-a-a-wk!!!

    • I was about 99% certain it was him! And it was a great performance – definitely deserving of the Oscar for Best Parrot. I hadn’t realised just how evil parrots could be… *shudders*

    • It’s fantastic fun! I’m hopeless at judging suitable ages for things but I did think it was probably more for about nine or ten up rather than very young children. Hope you and your kids enjoy it! 😀

  8. Arrrrrr matey!!! I don’t usually listen to audio books but methinks that this will have to be an exception. Yer post brought a smile to me lips and a salty tear o’ laughter to me eye. How could anyone resist this book after ye’ve made a compellin’ tell of the tale. Shiver me timbers and pass the grog! This review was arrrrsome! I will be repostin’ it on me own blog with yer permission of course.
    x The Captain

  9. “Treasure Island” is on my list of top ten favorite classic pieces of literature. It appeals to the child in me. It’s fascinating how pirates, who were terrible people, have become so romanticized. Robert Louis Stevenson helped shape fictional pirate lore such as walking the plank – real pirates had more gruesome methods than that – and the black spot. While pirate stories were popular in the 19th century, I can’t help but wonder if Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” just helped make pirate stories more popular. I can’t help but wonder if we have Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, both the ride and the movie based off of them, as well as video and computer games like Monkey Island, were all the result of this novel.

    • I love it too – straightforward rip-roaring adventure! Definitely it’s Stevenson’s pirates who formed my opinion of what a pirate should be like – way before I even read the book, I think. If anyone did an impersonation of a pirate, it was always one with a wooden leg and a parrot, and “Aar, Jim, lad” and “pieces of eight” just seem so pirate-y. So I reckon all pirates since then must have been influenced by these ones to some extent. Stevenson is such a great writer…

      Thanks for popping by and commenting. 😀

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