North East & YorkshirePantomimeReview

Robinson Crusoe – The Gala, Durham

Writers and directors: Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

The Gala uses the central character in Defoe’s classic, Robinson Crusoe and places him in a whole new adventure. We have pirates, high seas, a treasure island, mermaids, a giant parrot and many more ingredients for an original pantomime.

The opening scene finds Captain Blackheart (Neil Armstrong) throwing his crew into the sea, except his favourite, Perkins (Lauren Waine), and Blackheart is on a quest to find the Pearl of Wisdom. The goddess of the sea, Aqua Marina (Jayne Mackenzie) tells him only Robinson Crusoe can lead him to it, so the hunt is on. 

Robinson (Jamie Brown), is desperate to be a sailor, especially since he found a note from Man Friday asking to be rescued from a secret Island; his mother Dame Connie Crusoe (Paul Dunn) is determined her son shall not go to sea and be lost like his dad. Perkins finds Robinson, who discovers ‘he’ is really a girl and romance blooms. Everyone finds themselves on Blackheart’s ship on the way to the Island of Flames and the adventure begins.

As ever Armstrong and Hartley deliver originality, classic pantomime with a difference; the slosh scene is one of the most original you will see, featuring the most decorative ‘water pistol’ ever; the boy-girl romance is not the standard princess and suitor. While there are plenty of pantomime ingredients, an interesting take on “it’s behind you” some traditional favourites are missing, such as the community song. Billy Bob (Paul Hartley) like his costume is as bright and jaunty as ever, always raising a smile. While Armstrong receives plenty of boos and hisses, the audience also loves him, a unique talent. This is Armstrong’s tenth year as the baddie, and the third writing and directing with Hartley, a partnership that goes from strength to strength.

There is also a message, Robinson Crusoe, the son every mother wants, is not your general panto hero seeking fame and fortune; “ What do I want with wealth when I have all I need, my family, friends and the one I love?”, there are more important things in life than money.

The lengthy first act has song and dance routines aplenty while the second act really speeds along with plenty of action, acrobatics, antics and a very large mobile turtle (!). The three dimensional sets are very effective and Pecky the Parrot (John Murdock) adds plenty of colourful humour. The packed auditorium is a tribute to the ever increasing popularity of this pantomime, which grows every year and does The Gala credit.

Runs until Saturday 6 January 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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