Panto! Robin Hood
Robin Hood and his band of merry men (and women) rode into Camberley this week in a traditional and energetic pantomime about friendship and family.
The panto production at Camberley Theatre is starting to feel as warm and cosy as my favourite pair of bedsocks. I’ve been for the last three years, each time with director Suzi Budd at the helm, and it’s one of those guaranteed fun nights out.
This year it’s Robin Hood, a traditional story with all the ingredients for a festive family treat. My date for the night is family friend and panto first-timer, Ruby, aged 5 – and it was all the more magical to see it through her eyes.
The usual panto rules apply – awful jokes, audience participation, sing song, dancing and a fun and easy-to-follow story. And of course there was the traditional dame – Dame Cherry Bakewell – played with an ostentatious flourish by Matt Ian Kelly.
It’s easy to forget these panto traditions, but I was reminded when Ruby leaned over to inform me – in her most puzzled and earnest voice – there’s a man on the stage wearing a dress. But why?
Why indeed? Well, why not! It’s all part of the mayhem and madness of traditional panto.
As with almost every panto I go to, one half is always better than the other. The first half was slower, introducing the characters, setting up the story but the second half was absolutely hilarious. One girl in the seat behind me probably doesn’t have a voice left after all the excited screaming she did. My ears are still ringing.
Unusually, there was no sappy love-story here – with the focus instead on friendships and a sweet moral message: ‘always be yourself’. In this version of the story, Robin Hood and Maid Marion have been solid friends since they were small kids. And of course Robin has his loyal and devoted group of Merry Men.
Harrison Spiers’s Robin Hood and Kate Hume’s Maid Marian make an earnest, likeable pair, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re both in good voice. I got a bit goosebumpy when Robin belted out his version of ‘From Now On’ from The Greatest Showman.
Of course, there’s a baddie. The Sheriff of Nottingham is a spoiled, vain and petulant young man played with foppish flamboyance by Jack Everson. He tries to make Maid Marion marry him – which Ruby thought was hilarious – but of course Robin saves the day.
I haven’t mentioned Friar Tuck, but of course he’s here too… played convincingly by Mark Hyde, and there’s also Will Scarlet , and Little John, who ends up being Dame Cherry’s love interest. The love-story is not entirely overlooked – although it’s all about the humour.
The ensemble cast and junior performers must get a special mention – most notably for their great dance-moves. In Ruby’s eyes the true star of the show was Isla Rose after an incredible no-handed cartwheel.
So, all in all, a guaranteed festive fun night out. And with a start time of 6pm, it’s perfect for the kiddies who still need to be home and tucked up in bed at a decent hour.
Robin Hood is at Camberley Theatre from now until Tues 31 Dec. camberleytheatre.co.uk