Writers: Matt Crosby and Michael Fentiman
Musical Director: Matt Smith
Director: Michael Fentiman
Reviewer: Flip Miller
You know Christmas is coming with the annual trip to the Arts Theatre pantomime. This year’s offering is Robin Hood. Although not your usual pantomime you will not be disappointed.
This story of Robin Hood, written by the show’s Dame Matt Crosby and the Director Michael Fentiman is a hybrid of Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood. Young Robin, played by Ross Hunter, returns to Nottingham where the feisty Maid Marion played by Laura Want has issues with Robin and his mildly misogynistic ways. He vows to woo her back and when the King’s children are kidnapped he sees this as an ideal opportunity.
The curtain rises to Beyonce Willoweb played by Sophie Isaacs flying across the stage on a bicycle – highly appropriate for this Cambridge audience. As the saying goes good things come in small packages and Isaacs proves this point. The enthusiasm and energy she brings to this part really brings this character to life.
The writing and storyline is weaker than previous scripts by Crosby. However, Fentiman and Crosby do manage to insert some great one-liners about the local area to keep the audience engaged. The re-writing of popular songs is tried and tested in pantomime. In Robin Hood Crosby and Fentiman seem to have mastered this talent. Of particular note is the Sheriff of Nottingham’s variation of I’m Too Sexy.
Stephen Beckett reprises his rôle as Baddy at Cambridge by playing the Sheriff of Nottingham. For the children in the audience Beckett does play a very evil villain from start to finish. Beckett has a tongue in cheek quality to his performance that allows him to play this mainly straight character with a bit of comedy. It is obvious that he is enjoying playing this rôle.
Hunter takes the title rôle in the pantomime. While he is an accomplished actor and singer there is something lacking in his performance. He executes his rôle very well but just does not have the “Panto Factor”.
The slapstick scene shows off Matt Crosby and Jonny Weldon’s (Nurse Nelly and Will Scarlett respectively) clowning skills to perfection. They are enthusiastic and really put their all into it. Their co-ordinated pratt falling is timed with absolute prescision. Weldon’s collision with the wall had the audience wincing but when you watch the precision in this routine in the Pantomime you realise that it is all part of the act.
The parts of the Babes in the Wood – Jack and Jill were split and it would have been nice to know which Jack and Jill and which team of panto babes were being used in the performance.
All the actors and panto babes have very strong singing voices. Sadly the orchestra is so loud that at times you can not hear the words of the songs. The choreography is very good. The choreographer, Kevan Allen, must have ruled with a rod of iron to get such well timed and performed dances from the cast. Every one is in time to the music and the whole of the stage is utilised.
The impossibly quick costumes changes are plentiful and fast. A Formula 1 team would be proud of the split second timing of the costume changes that the back stage staff are capable of. There hardly seems to be a heartbeat from when a character goes off and comes back on in an entirely different costume.
All in all a romping good night out for all the family.
Runs until Sunday 12th January 2014