THERE’S theatrical gold in them halls, and Pru Harrold of the Headley Theatre Club knows it.

She achieved a long-held ambition on Saturday, January 13, when her production of Treasure Island premiered to a near sell-out crowd in the village hall.

Under her direction the large cast and its many newcomers took Ben Crocker’s imaginative script and made it their own.

A traditional panto script takes a familiar story and injects it with twists, turns and surprises, and this version of Treasure Island did not disappoint.

For instance, Long John Silver and his pirate cronies gate-crashed a WI cake baking competition, with the bizarre scenario producing a recipe for an hilarious and action-packed adventure.

The plot centres on a widow who owes rent and a son desperate to find fortune and a wife. Riches await by following a map to Treasure Island but Long John Silver and his crew are determined to get there first.

The opening number in the Admiral Benbow tavern features the local townsfolk, along with the dame Mum Hawkins (Rufus Kandall), her son Jim (Summer Wareham) regaling the crowd with a boozed-up a-cappella rendition of What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor.

Old seafayrer Billy Bones (Rod Sharp) sits nervously on his tea chest guarding the treasure map sought by Silver and his crew. When Squire Trelawney (Martin Welland) and his daughter Jenny (Eryn Johnson) turn up for the rent, he is easily distracted by the promise of a large portion of Mum Hawkins’s famous Spotted Dick and custard!

Of course, Jim and Jenny are instantly attracted to each other – romance box well and truly ticked – with the placing of a map in an ample bosom and the arrival of the pirates upping up the laughter levels.

Long John Silver (Will Nash), Blood Boiler (Neil Hardinge), Gizzard Slitter (an impressive Lee Carter) and The Fridge (Gavin Rasburn) gave the show just the lift it needed at this point. Their costumes were fabulous - thanks to Dil Williamson-Smith - and the pirates’ ensemble playing was deliciously over-the-top and extremely comical.

The mother and daughter double act of Karina Farnlucher (Seadog Sam) and Annaliese Farnlucher (Seaweed Willy) provided lots of fun with their antics. Karina did a great job rehearsing the juniors, who were all marvellous as village children, pirates, ghosts and zombies. The spooky UV cave scene was very effective.

The ladies of the W.I., fronted by no-nonsense leader Mrs Henderson (Sarah Horne), all worked well together and clearly enjoyed their roles, particularly when they got the chance to engage in some cross dressing and became honorary pirates.

Jo Smith (Ben Gunn) and Nick Webb (Captain Bloodheart) had to wait for their big moments but the former made a very convincing marooned photographer and Nick led the audience in an amusing community song.

A pantomime script has to be chosen carefully. It needs to be laugh out loud funny, offer plenty of audience participation, and blend traditional and the modern with a few surprises.

This is exactly what Treasure Island, Pru Harrold and Headley Theatre Club provided in a wonderful evening of madcap entertainment.