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Pantomime is traditionally seen as more of a treat for the kids than the adults, but after hearing the raucous laughter from nearly every adult audience member in the building at some point during Robin Hood, this reviewer was left wondering just why on earth that’s been the case for so long.
The story is simple – Robin Hood has to thwart the evil Sheriff of Nottingham at several turns and save his true love Maid Marian – but the characters are outlandish and hilariously vivid. Naturally, there’s a vindictive Spanish cleaning lady called Consuela and a Scottish Merry Man called Alan McDale, who is desperate for us all to hear him sing Mull of Kintyre. Anthony Spargo shines as a wonderfully over-the-top Sheriff, and is reminiscent of Hugh Laurie in Blackadder with his melodramatic yet hopelessly pathetic swarthiness. The star of the show however, as has been for the past seven years, is undoubtedly actor, writer and this year director of the pantomime, Andrew Pollard. This time round Pollard plays the buxom “Nursie”, who in traditionally glorious drag sports costumes ranging from a ludicrous human thermometer, to a worryingly tight Girl Guides outfit.
With such a talented writer and actor at the helm the evening was always going to be entertaining – but even my high expectations fell short of mark. There’s in jokes, gross jokes, ad libbed jokes, silly jokes, cheesy jokes and even one or two risqué jokes. There are sword fights, fireworks, ventriloquism and bags of audience participation. And what about those songs? Not the original yet somehow lacking half-hearted attempts in this show stopper. All of this year’s hits get a look in, from Friar Tuck rapping Rizzlekicks’ ‘Mama Do The Hump’ to Nursie outdoing Psy with ‘Gangnam Style’ and many, many more besides.
But what of the traditional panto? Is it all lost in the need to get adult side’s splitting? It’s fair to say that younger children will be a bit non-plussed for at least some parts of the show as the gags fall thick and fast about everything from The Olympics to even the Greenwich Theatre itself. However with sing-alongs, actions and shout-outs, there’s still enough of a balance here for everyone to enjoy something throughout the night.
Funny, smart, toe-tapping and sometimes just plain bonkers, Robin Hood is the gift that keeps on giving this Christmas. It’s nothing short of a miracle that Andrew Pollard is able to come up with a production that feels so fresh year on year. Can it get any better than this? I’d like to say “Oh yes it can”, but I really can’t be sure.