THIS new musical version of Moonfleet, an absorbing classic tale, won rapturous acclaim at Salisbury Playhouse this week,

Moonfleet, a village haunted by the ghost of the marauding pirate Blackbeard, is an abode of intrigue, drama and lurking shadows of smugglers.

This appealing new adaptation of J Meade Falkner's adventure story, set in 1757, is directed and written by Gareth Machin, the theatre's artistic director. The original music is composed by Russell Hepplewhite. with musical direction by Michael Haslam. Powerful vocal numbers, accompanied by an able instrumental ensemble, enhance the impact.

Wiltshire-born Falkner's fascinating tale, set amongst the cliffs, caves and downs of 18th century Dorset, chronicles a young man's desperate search for adventure and fulfilment.

Earl Carpenter gives an exceptional performance as Maskew the magistrate and Turnkey, with Ryan Heenan as the young orphan John Trenchard, who dreams of Blackbeard’s long-lost treasure and the prospect of wealth and happiness. His adventure involve Rebecca Lock as Isabelle, with whom he experiences danger, imprisonment and shipwreck. Ashley Mercer is the imposing Blackbeard, who can dominate the stage and vanish in an instant..

Fine performances by Simon Butteriss as the vicar; Dom Hartley-Harris as Ratsy; Rhona McGregor as John's aunt Jane; Ruth Betteridge as Grace; Dan Smith as Mr Hinks and Susannah Van Den Berg as Mrs Gadd ensure a memorable show. The production benefits from Tom Rogers' atmospheric set design and period costume, lighting design by Tim Lutkin and sound design by Yvonne Gilbert. The plaintive cry of seagulls and the roar of the stormy sea accentuate the drama.

Superb effects include the access to the crypt, the perilous descent of the well and the terrifying ordeal of being hurled by the raging surf on to an unexpectedly familiar shore.

Moonfleet runs until May 5.

Stella Taylor