The Famous Five the Musical: Smuggler’s Gold

I had watched this musical once before, at Stef’s house, but I’d forgotten just about everything about it including the plot, songs and characters. We watched it at my house this time as I got it on DVD for my Christmas.

The stage play was on tour in 1997 for the hundredth anniversary of Enid Blyton’s birth.


The story

Like the 70s series’ first episode this is a slight amalgamation of two books. The 70s series combined the children meeting for the first time from Five on a Treasure Island with the main plot of the sixth book Five on Kirrin Island Again. The musical has combined the children’s meeting with the plot of Five Go Adventuring Again, the second book.

The musical then begins with Julian, Dick and Anne discussing having a cousin that they’ve never met. They then travel to Kirrin, meet their aunt and uncle, but not George right away. They are then introduced to Timmy who, as in the second book, is not a secret.

George tells (sings) them the tale of how Smuggler’s gold was reported to be hidden at Kirrin Farm, and tells them that two artists are renting it from that afternoon.

The end of the smugglers song

Mr Roland arrives to tutor them, and takes a dislike to Timmy. The Five explore Kirrin Farm and find a scrap of fabric with a map to a secret way on it. They hunt around Kirrin Farm, with no luck.

George has an argument with Mr Roland and Timmy is banned from the house and then some of Uncle Quentin’s work goes missing. She gets a talking-to in her father’s study and that’s when she finds the entrance to the secret way.

They all (oddly minus Timmy) explore the secret way, followed by Mr Roland, and find themselves at Kirrin Farm under attack from one of the artists. The tables are quickly turned though and it’s the artist in trouble. Everything is then tied up neatly, including one artist!

The Five prevail

How the story has been changed

Well, of course there are a lot of songs, but more about them later. Being a stage-play and having a set amount of time and budget, there are of course a lot of changes. What’s interesting is that there are various lines which are word-for-word from the books, a lot which are close enough to be recognisable, and then also there are many things which are completely different.

For example the children take the train alone to Kirrin, Kirrin Farm is an empty shell and there are no Mr and Mrs Sanders. The setting has been changed to the 1930s for no obvious reason, and George is the same age as Julian instead of Dick.

Mr Roland still comes to tutor them, all of them, as apparently they had poor exam results. It is George who sees him talking to the artists, before he later professes to not know them. Julian then follows him later and observes him talking to the artists at night and giving them a notebook.

The hidden gold is worked in quite neatly by changing George’s great-great-great Grandfather to her Great-great-grandmother who owned Kirrin Farm, and her smuggler brother who brought gold via a ship then a passage and cave before his ship went down.

Perhaps more understandably the snow has been changed to heavy rain and floods. Same effect of trapping them indoors without the requirement for fake snow and heavy coats under the theatre lights.

The end is very different. The children are under attack from Mr Roland and his gun and the two artists when Aunt Fanny opens the door to the secret way and knocks Mr Roland over. Julian ends up with the gun and Timmy sniffs out the hidden gold.

This never would have happened in the books!

The two artists, instead of being polite and well-mannered individuals who also happen to secretly be crooks are now a pair of very obvious spivs.

Also given the nature of what works on stage vs in a book, we meet the crooks Thomas and Wilton at the start and see them talking, arguing, and scheming a few times. I expect that gave the main cast a brief rest or opportunity to change clothing.

The songs

There are a lot of songs. More than I think I expected. Most of them are rather forgettable, unfortunately. The only one that sticks with me is One, two, three, four, five, we’re the Famous Five, and that’s because it’s used more than once. It’s not that the songs are bad, most just aren’t particularly catchy or memorable.

I’ve had to rewatch to have more to say about the songs. I remember there being one about Latin verbs as I made a note about that. At the time I said to Stef that they must have been desperate for song material to use that as a subject.

I did try to transcribe the songs while rewatching but I couldn’t catch all the words and there are no subtitles! Here is a rough list of the songs (names entirely made up by me), though and at least a few lines of each.

Song 1: Leaving London (Julian, Dick, Anne and two crooks)

Life in London can be tedious
What we need is a change of scene
Some may swear the air is cleaner
Grass is greener than grassy green
Anywhere but London
Anywhere but now
Just beyond the city lights there are starry nights to be seen
Higher heights to astound
Finer sights to be found

Our bags are packed
Our troubles are behind us
Adventures come and find us where the skies and seas are blue
Where dreams are made
As cream and lemonade
As castles built with sand command an oceanic view
Where pirates play
And have their wicked way
And damsels in distress confess their love for a handsome prince
When days are gone, when days are gone,
The night’s mysterious, mysterious,

Can you feel the wind blow through your hair?
See the flowers dancing in the summer breeze
I can almost taste the salty air
And I’ve never seen so many trees
And what’s that beautiful building?
I don’t know but it’s very strange
Very spooky
The house they say is older than the hills
And every room inside can tell a different story
Of ghosts and ghouls!
Oh Dick, you’re such a fool!
It’s just as well I brought my toys as boys can be so funny and so boring

Far away from London
Far away from town
All aboard a fast approaching
[couldn’t catch this bit]
Ring the bell
Yell it to the world
Farewell London
Farewell London town

Song 2: George does not like girls (George and Anne)

I don’t like girls, they’re frilly and pink
And cry at the drop of a hat
Have you ever seen a boy do that
Well neither have I, and that is why
I don’t like girls, they’re sweet like sugar on the top of a Devonshire scone
In a dress I’ve never felt at home
If you want to know why try picturing me in girly glad-rags
It would look ever so sad on me
Think of the shock, me in a frock
I’d still look like a lad you see

No I don’t like girls, they’re much too feminine
They make my adrenaline boil
Have you ever seen a boy recoil at the sight of a worm

I like the name you call yourself
You do?
I do indeed, it’s plain to see that a girl like me is just the type of friend you need

But I don’t like girls
Yet we’re so clever and you never see us bully or brawl
I’m the biggest bully of all??

Think of the fun we’ll have together
Maybe you’ll see???
Milking a goat and rowing a boat are just a few that I can do

So I don’t like girls
But when it’s cousins it doesn’t do to bicker and fight
Everything’s got to be just right
And I’m willing to try

Song 3: George’s ode to Timmy (George)

He’s the most adorable dog in the world
He’s a clever little canine
Timmy has made me the happiest girl
And I’m proud to call him mine
And way you wiggle your waggly tail
Is undoubtedly amusing
I throw a stick and you fetch it ??
You’re smart and so bemusing

He can swim for a mile
And jump any stile
And when your life is on the line you risk it
If I ask you to stay
You will always obey
And you don’t even as for a biscuit

Song 4: George’s tale of smugglers (George and cousins)

Many years ago they say when dark clouds hid the stars
A ship sailed into Kirrin Bay
Laden with gold bars
Singing ‘hey diddle diddle the Smuggler’s life
Played our fiddle to a mermaid’s wife
Hey diddle diddle the smuggler’s life
Upon the salty waves’

The gold was carried up the shore to a passage and a cave
Until the ship’s store held no more
They waited until very late and crept up to the farm
They’d hide the gold then sell it great that none had come to harm
Singing ‘hey nonny nonny the smuggler’s tune
See it’s funny beneath the moon
Hey nonny nonny the smuggler’s tune
Dancing until day
Oh ho, yo ho ho,
Yo ho, yo ho ho,
Yo ho, yo ho ho ho
Dancing until day

Great uncle never came again
It’s said his ship went down
It disappeared in a hurricane

Well that’s the way the story goes
And I believe it’s true
Where the gold is no-one knows
The smugglers left no clue
Singing hey diddle diddle the smuggler’s bones
Play the fiddle with Davy Jones
Hey diddle diddle the smuggler’s bones
Beneath the ocean blue

Sea is green, sky is black
Bones are bones
Smuggler’s gold

Song 5: We are the Famous Five (all children)

I hereby proudly state it loudly that we’re the Famous Five

One two three four five, we’re the Famous Five
And jolly glad to be alive, one two three four five

There’s a secret place
Or a secret panel
And it might just lead
To a secret channel
Take a vow here and now united we will fight it
One two three four five in the best way we know how

One two three four five, we’re the Famous Five (repeated)
And jolly glad to be alive, one two three four five

One two three four five, one two three four five
And we are proudly singing loudly we are the Famous Five
One two three four five, we’re the Famous Five
And jolly glad to be alive, one two three four five
And jolly glad to be alive, we’re the Famous Five
And very glad to be alive, one two three four five

Song 6: The aforementioned Latin verbs (all children)

A little verb, a little tense
A little direct object pronoun
And though it doesn’t make much sense
It hasn’t occurred to Sir to slow down

Repeat the word (repeated)
Repeat the phrase
Complete the phrase

It’s very hard to keep from yawning…

Song 7: George’s love song to Timmy (George)

It’s just you and me, Tim
I trust you, you see, Tim
Oh where would I be, Tim
If I scraped my knee, Tim
Or be stung by a bee, Tim
Without you to lick away the pain
Time and again

Song 8: Telling George to smile (the cousins but mostly Dick)

You’ve got to smile
Have a happy face
You have to smile
Before you lose the race
You’ve got to smile
You can do it

Song 9: Crooks and criminals (the two artists)

It takes a crook like me to seize an opportunity
It takes a well trained eye to see a possibility

Song 10: Julian singing in the rain (Julian)

Cold and pouring ran has soaked the to the skin
I know I ought not to complain
But look at the mess I’m in
Stuck here standing in a pool of suspicion
Trying hard not to be seen
But at least I’m getting clean

Julian’s pool of suspicion

Song 11: We’re the Famous Five reprise with Mr Roland’s suspicious noises (all children and Mr Roland)

One two three four five, one two three four five,
And hereby proudly singing loudly we are the Famous Five
One two three four five we’re the Famous Five
And jolly glad to be alive
One two three four five

Did I hear a noise, what was that?
Loud enough to wake me from my sleep
And it sounded as though it was coming from below
Perhaps I ought to go and take a tentative peep

There it is again
And sounding rather too suspicious
To ignore
I had better creep down take a little look around
It’s an unappealing feeling that I have to explore

Someone could be in there
Trying to upset my little plan
What can I do about THAT?

Famous Five repeat their song as Mr Roland repeats his.

Unfortunately the tunnel is painted on

On another watch some of the songs are quite catchy. The smugglers song particularly as well as the Famous Five song. I’m not convinced I have the words right to that one. Each of the three times they sing it I hear “singing loubry, renat the Famous Five,” which is clearly utterly wrong. It could be “we’re not the Famous Five” or “bring us the Famous Five” neither of which make sense.

If you have this DVD and better ears than me, please tell me the words!

Minor nitpicks

It grates a bit that they changed the decade and the children’s ages, but over-all those aren’t important. Kirrin (or rather KirrEn as the scene titles has it) Cottage is said to be a mile from the sea (for no reason).

What’s worse is that Anne screams just about every time something happens, and the others are not far behind. I know on stage that reactions need to be bigger to be seen, but they over-react quite a lot. She screams at 3 minutes in when boys prod her, 6 minutes when George shows her a worm and 24 minutes when there’s a bang in the farmhouse. That bang happens to be a secret panel opening for absolutely no reason whatsoever and revealing the secret map.  On a similar not the secret way, when they find it is a huge and very obvious door that opens with no effort whatsoever.

They all scream at 47 minutes when the artists arrive and snarl at them. Anne screams at 1 hour 7 because they’ve gone into the secret way. Everyone screams at 1 hour 11 as the artists discover them in the farmhouse again. Everyone screams at 1 hour 12 when Mr Roland appears.

Throughout John Lee is drowned by the Julian costume. The trousers are too long and too baggy, as is the jumper and blazer. I know there were three sets of actors taking the role, as being children they were limited to how many hours a week they could perform, but surely each actor had his or her own costume?

Julian’s clothes

Theatre limitations can excuse Timmy being missing from the final scenes, but it’s a bit fraudulent that they were still singing One, two, three, four, five, we’re the Famous Five when there were blatantly only four of them. It also excuses the fact that Mr Roland is in a full suit and his shoes with a dressing gown on top in the middle of the night, and George who had been in the previous scene with only a few seconds’ downtime is still fully dressed.

In the middle of the night

It can’t excuse the fact that Timmy finding the gold comes as a complete after-thought.

My thoughts

This is quite fun. Most of the plot and storyline has been cleverly woven together from the two books. Unfortunately it misses some of the best parts in my opinion. George is not ostracized from the family for hating Mr Roland, so there is no vindication at the end when she is right. There is no real tense scenes such as them searching the artists’ rooms and almost being caught. Timmy does not growl, bark or apprend anyone.

As a play it is a little cringe-worthy at times but on the whole it is well acted. There are lots of witty lines, especially from the artists. One is clever and cunning and the other is quite foolish.

So cringe-worthy

Character-wise Julian was bossy, Dick was funny and George was bold and almost sulky enough. Aunt Fanny was obsessed with baking and custard, Uncle Quentin was rather toned-down, and Anne was smug, snidey, screamy and not at all like the real thing.

Smug, snidey Anne

I would liked to have seen how the other two casts performed, but seeing as I can’t even find a clip of this version online I doubt it will ever happen.

The DVD is available on Amazon, but has shot up to £26 when it used to be £10 so it may be getting harder to find. If you can find it cheaply and you like the Famous Five then you should get it.

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4 Responses to The Famous Five the Musical: Smuggler’s Gold

  1. Dale Vincero, Brisbane Australia says:

    Thanks for the report on the play, Fiona.


  2. I had mixed feelings on the play. I wish I could find it again, but i lost it years ago, when I was about ten. I still remembered the play very well. For whatever reason, I really liked the song “I Don’t Like Girls” which functioned quite well in the musical to introduce George and her feelings towards all things feminine. That’s something i have to commend the play on, the fact that the musical numbers, for the most part, had reasons to be there, whether it was about the setting, the characters, moving the story along or something else. George’s solo about Timmy, “Time and Again” had the right tone, but I think they did fail to have her explain why she was bringing it up then. I guess it was to make sure Timmy knew she still loved him and didn’t want to make him stay outside, but that could have been mentioned. I remember being confused when Timmy was brought up because I was like “Isn’t Timmy living with the fisher boy at this point?” but again, this was probably from the second book. I did feel like the kids, well, Julian and George, seemed a bit too old for their ages, but that’s probably because they got older actors. I know Jon Lee was fifteen or sixteen, but the girl playing Anne does seem a lot younger than the age she probably really is. Also, this is something I noticed in the books, too, so I’m not sure if I’m right but…am I the only one that noticed Dick had the smallest role of the leads? Even the curtain call reflects that, with him being the first one of the Five to take a bow (yeah, I remember that kind of thing). He’s close enough to his book counterpart, but maybe not quite as intelligent or perceptive. He didn’t really get a chance to shine. Neither did Anne, but she sticks out as the most feminine and youngest. There is a soundtrack on YouTube if you want to check your lyrics.
    Just as a note, the line in “I Don’t Like Girls” which you said was “bicker and fight”, I heard as “bicker and pry” or ‘”bicker and pride”, which doesn’t make sense. I can hear a P, but there does seem to be a “t” or a “d” after that, so not sure (the recording of it cuts off in the middle of the second to last line, but this particular line is in there). I always thought it was “pry” because it rhymes with “try”.


    • Fiona says:

      I’m not at all convinced about half of my attempts to transcribe the lyrics. My hearing is pretty dodgy at the best of times and the quality of the recording isn’t the clearest either.
      Because the play has combined the start of Five On a Treasure Island (the Five meeting for the first time) and the bulk of Five Go Adventuring again (Mr Roland and Kirrin Farm) Timmy could be either living with George or Alf/James really.


  3. James says:

    Looks like it’s currently on youtube if anyone comes here and wants to watch. It’s something I had the dvd or VHS of as a kid and just remembered about it recently.

    It’s nostalgic for me lol, enjoyable enough for what it is.


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