Robin Hood (review). Audience goes wild for smash hit panto

Some pantomime stories can’t be messed with but Robin Hood has room for manoeuvre and the clever people at Watford Palace Theatre have come up with a show that will thrill and excite family audiences.

Saturday, 14th December 2013, 3:01 pm
Maid Marion in Robin Hood
Maid Marion in Robin Hood

Working with the concept of “why change a winning formula?” they’ve recruited last year’s company who had a smash sell-out with Mother Goose to work their fairy magic on a new show.

And the matinee audience that joined me this week were delighted. They screamed the house down and went wild at the antics of the brave and dashing Robin (Robert Rees, looking very handsome in Lincoln Green), the beautiful Jill McAusland as Maid Marian, and Philip Cox (no relation) making the most of the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham (boo,hiss).

Sheena Patel is back to weave her comedy magic. This year she’s Shirley the Soothsayer from Sheffield (Hiya! Alright?), who reluctantly helps the Sheriff cancel Christmas and discover his Midas touch (aha, we all know what happened to Midas don’t we boys and girls?).

The story takes us out of Sherwood Forest and to a castle where everyone hunts for a secret scroll.

Marion does her best not to fall into the clutches of the Sheriff while everyone else is involved in a race against time to thwart his evil plans.

Fresh to the cast, and making her WPT panto debut is Erica Guyatt as a rather intimidating Little Joan (she wields a mean hockey stick!) but she’s just the sort of right hand woman Robin needs as he gets into one scrape after another.

Donovan Blackwood plays the (deep fat) Friar Tuck who falls in love with one of the best dressed dames in the business, Terence Frisch’s Nurse Nellie (is that allowed in holy orders?).

Robin Hood is Christmas crackers and full of fun. There’s slapstick and swordplay plus a nifty bit of archery from none other than national long bow champion and Britain’s first female fight director Alison de Burgh.

The cast look like they’re really enjoying themselves and, perhaps because they worked together on last year’s show, have great rapport. Rees makes a heroic Robin and it’s refreshing to see Marian’s role beefed up for modern audiences.

And yes, mums and dads, there is the now standard audience participation slot. I had sympathy for a certain teacher called Mr Goddard who was singled out for Nellie’s attention. His reputation at the prep school outing he was accompanying is probably now in tatters.

Robin Hood is a wonderful Christmas treat for all the family. Running until December 28. Next year it’s Sleeping Beauty.

Tickets for both from the box office 01923 225671 or visit www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk.