ROBIN HOOD - THE PANTO
directed by Sara Brockway
PADOS Theatre Group
There are not many things which make me feel Christmassy but pantomime is one of them, and as Robin Hood is my first of the season, it did make me want to rush home and put my tree up. But I did resist, till the first of December, that is.
For many people, both children and the big kids as well, pantomime is their first exposure to theatre in genera. It is great fun; we have goodies that we cheer and baddies that we boo. I suspect that at the matinée performance that I attended this was the case. We have the opportunity to join in, to listen, to laugh at silly antics, and sing, and dance - such fun! It was great to see so many people getting involved as there was plenty of opportunity for audience participation.
Most of us are familiar with the folk legend of Robin Hood, that he was an outlaw living in Sherwood Forest with his other Merry Men. In this adaptation the evil Sherriff of Nottingham (Lisa Hartley) has imprisoned Maid Marion (Charlie Lewis) and intends to marry her himself, but it is down to Robin (Jake Smeeton) along with the fair maid’s guardian and our pantomime’s Dame character, Nellie Scarlet (Jack Forest) to save her.
Jasmine Weir was our storyteller in the character of Holly Jockey Sticks. Her costume really set the feel of Christmas and the hat, made of a Christmas Wreath with holly berries, really gave the feeling of woodland. Jasmine spoke clearly and projected her voice well for all to hear the rhyme and story that it contained so that we could all understand the plot throughout. This was an engaging performance.
It is always nice to set off pantomime with a song, and the villagers did this well, moving around the stage. Although, at times, it was not always clear what was said in dialogue by some, it did set the scene for the two hench men, Charlie Cheese and Chris Crackers. Roxanne Burns and Amanda Ernest really worked fabulously in these roles. There was humour in their line delivery, their expressions really conveyed that here were two people who were intelligence challenged. Their broad northern accents and oversized flat caps really added to their character portrayal, and their signature strut around stage every time they made an entrance was a hoot.
Lisa Hartley, once again made a very convincing baddy, this year as the Sheriff. Here is a person who knows instinctively how to engage with an audience, to get them to respond to her and quick enough to ad lib when it is needed but more importantly, when to bring it to an end and move on with the show. Her expressions conveyed to all how calculating she was and left us in no doubt as to who was the evil one for us all to hiss!
As in all pantomimes we need a hero to cheer and Jake Smeeton was that man! Commanding the stage at times, rescuing fair maid and defeating the Sheriff in a daring sword fight. YAY! As the lady in question, Charlie was that sweet, demur maiden. Both Jake and Charlie suited the character mould wonderfully. Of course, they were supported by Robin’s men. Debbie Lewis was so funny as the very northern, always hungry, Friar Tuck, and worked well with the imposing Hayley Jordan and Leona Hartley Whiteley, as John and Alan respectively. I really enjoyed the Much name confusion gags that ran throughout the pantomime, and I thought Chloe Pereira worked it wonderfully and with pace.
All pantomimes need a Dame, and back in a frock, Jack Forrest was superb, as Nellie Scarlet. He really worked the audience and carried us all along with his jolly portrayal. Jack has a good understanding of pantomime and engages with those watching, inviting them to join in at every opportunity, and quite happy to go off script for a time. The Big Spender number was a particular highlight, but maybe the sweet throwing would have been better after the song. However, I thought he did well to cope with the challenge of the younger audience members shouting for more sweets through it. How did you manage to walk in those heels? A super job young man.
So Nellie Scarlet had a son, Wally – who knew? Suzi Cleary was super as the silly character of this pantomime. She had great timing in line delivery, and was engaging and forever in character. Excellent!
The workshop and props team had obviously been busy making carts, chairs and stalls. In such a limited area it was just enough to dress the stage without over doing it so that action was not compromised. Similarly, the choreography by Susan Glover was varied and not too ambitious and was just right for the staging. The songs and singing, especially the finale number, seemed well schooled under guidance of Neil Ravenscroft. The action was well lit by Andrew Eastwood.
This is the first pantomime that I have seen directed by Sara Brockway and I am sure that she must be very happy with the result. As I came on the opening day, I am positive that throughout the week many people went home happy and ready to start the build up to Christmas celebrations.
Thanks to the society, and especially Janet, for your company and hospitality and I look forward to watching the pantomime next year. “Oh, yes I do!”