Panto season is upon us (Oh Yes it is!) and Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch have repackaged the classic tale of Robin Hood and bought it to the stage in a wonderful way. The show is crafted by talented writer and Panto veteran Andrew Pollard.
An enjoyable Christmas show full of fun.
The cast are all multi-skilled as each actor doubles up as a musician to accompany their fellow performers in the various musical numbers from the sides of the stage. Watching the evil queen remove her elegant headpiece in order to sit at the drum kit is a wonderful sight to behold.
The title character is played by the engaging Phil Adele. His first number, rocking out with an electric guitar, is lively and sets the mood for a show full of camp entertainment. Robin Hood is joined by Friar Tuck, Robert Took showing as much youthful exuberance as he can muster. His scenes with Dame Nanny are both funny, and adorable.
Little Joan, pantomime newbie Ruth Brotherton, strides about the stage with a knowing twinkle in her eye. Even though we all know her ‘secret’ the comedic value is very entertaining none-the-less. Alongside Little Joan is the criminally underused Jessica Brydges as Will Scarlet. Although she was stuck at the keyboard for much of the show her main role was sadly not filled out enough, and it was a shame as she had the potential for much more.
Now for the baddies – the Sheriff of Nottingham was played for laughs by Lawrence Cole and would certainly not have felt out of place had this Sheriff appeared in the old CBBC comedy Maid Marian and her Merry Men instead of Tony Robinson. He was a spoilt brat and stomped around the stage looking for girls to woo, and people to rob. He really came into his own in the second half and, by the end, was one of the stand out stars of the show. Joining the Sherriff in his dastardly plots was his mother – Morgana. Costumed up as a cross between Maleficient and the Evil Queen, Georgina Field was a wonderful cackler. Her jokes didn’t always land but that was no matter as she was then able to be the true villain whilst her son dithered around being obnoxious to everyone.
Robin’s love interest was of course, Maid Marian, and she was played with earnest glee by Barbara Hockaday. She was one of the best singers in the company and her enthusiasm seeped into the stage and everyone around her. She was joined, bizarrely, by one sheep – Eweniss. Elian West was costumed up in an outfit akin to Shaun the Sheep and was grinning from ear-to-ear throughout. One of the kids’ favourite characters, Eweniss was full of joy. The cast was completed by Dame Nanny Fanny; John Barr in his 25th pantomime. This was a fantastic performance from a true master of their craft. The comedy scene in Act 2 between Nanny Fanny, Friar Tuck and the Sherriff of Nottingham was a major highlight for me, and thankfully made up for its Act 1 counterpart which was frustratingly played far upstage and it was clear that, at this point, the cast were having more fun than the audience. Apart from this one lapse the direction by Douglas Rintout was well done it was a testament to him that all the cast were able to shine.
The music was comprised mostly of 90’s classics and Tom Self did a brilliant job as Musical Director which is not easy when the music is as woven in to the show as it is in the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch’s pantomime. Sundeep Saini’s choreography was a great touch. The ensemble numbers, featuring the very talented junior chorus, were fantastically enjoyable performances. Bethan Clarke was responsible for the fight sequences and the moments were brilliantly executed – particularly the sword battles.
Richard Foxton’s set was a work of art, comprising of a turntable which was able to quickly take the audience from village, to hideout, to castle and all the other set pieces in-between. This was complemented by able lighting design by Stephen Pemble and Sound by Paul Falconer. All three elements combined to create a great final act where Morgana’s spell was put into action.
If you are looking for a fun pantomime suitable for all ages then you will definitely not go wrong with Robin Hood. An exquisite company full of great performances and talented actor-musicians. The story of Robin Hood is not the most popular pantomime material but the team at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch have fantastically turned this story into an enjoyable Christmas show full of fun.