Director and Choreographer: Nick Winston
Reviewer: David Jobson
If you want to see a panto that is traditional, gives all the characters their moment in the limelight and doesn’t have endless childish and double entendre humour, then Robin Hood at the Mayflower isn’t for you. If you’re after a panto that has spectacular production values, gives its stars all the attention and oozes non-stop entertainment, then this is the one.
Of course, Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace are placed front and centre in this show. With tonnes of charisma, Richie can get away with flirting with the audience, (watch out, mummies) and act the man-child with his rude and outrageous behaviour. He is evenly matched by Jessie Wallace as a vivacious Maid Marian and Pete Gallagher proves a mighty villain as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The rest of the characters are defined by their acts. Somehow the show finds time for Peter Piper in his role as Friar Tuck to do his American pastor and David Attenborough impressions. He also has a few useful words of advice for Robin Hood on wooing ladies through poetry.
Phil Hitchcock provides some amazing magic tricks as Merlin the Magician – none of your ‘pick any card’ tricks here. Also starring are the Acromaniacs as Robin Hood’s merry men, pulling off breathtaking acrobatic stunts.
Still, there are some great performers who get sidelined, including veteran dame Jeffrey Holland as the Nurse. Ashleigh Gray, who previously appeared as Elphaba when Wicked came into town, has only one song at the beginning to show off her soaring vocals as the Spirit of Sherwood Forest.
It can’t be said that Qdos skimps on production values. The sets are bright and colourful and they throw everything at the audience from the lighting to the special effects. There’s a 3D sequence for the audience to duck at, and at times the show turns into The Panto that Goes Wrong. As usual, the end of the first act is a roaring success.
There are plenty of jokes, including some EastEnders references and a couple of local ones (watch out Portsmouth residents). The routines keep coming from the usual he’s behind you sequence to a hectic Twelve Days of Christmas number
Some areas could do with sprucing up. There are the occasional dated references and the story feels like it’s mashed together to fit with the routines. There is also one set piece that oddly looks shabby and out of place with the rest, until its purpose is revealed to comic effect.
In the end, though, the Mayflower continues to provide the biggest, flashiest pantos in the county. Sure, it could do with updating in places and some cast members could have been given more time to shine. But it is Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace that audiences come to see and their performances ensure that this show never misses the targets.
Runs until 8 January 2017 | Image: Contributed