I don’t think I’ve ever watched a panto in November before, but in times like these, where the build-up to Christmas, and the year in general, has been dominated by an air of doom and gloom, a festive kick up the backside was much needed to help me get in the spirit.
And it really did help. From start to finish, there was so much joy to be had in this production, from the familiarity of the custard pie routines and throwing sweets to the kids, to the superb song and dance numbers and the very silly gags throughout.
Yes, as a man in his late thirties, save for the odd political gag, this wasn’t really aimed at me, but you can’t fail to have your spirits lifted seeing the pure joy that the show brought to the multitude of youngsters in attendance. And I’m still not mature enough not to laugh at a farting pigeon.
I’m not a fan of giving a synopsis, and this is pantomime, where no-one really cares about the story, so I’m not going to bother. What I will say is that this isn’t quite the Robin Hood story you might expect, as the brilliantly written script has a barely concealed twist in its tale.
This is a production made up of professional adult performers and a young community cast, but from top to bottom this was as professional as it gets. The young cast showed us that they’ve bright futures ahead, as they looked absolutely at home alongside some seasoned pros and on such a grand stage. The adults were every bit as good as you’d expect, but they were clearly revelling in the opportunity to show off in front of an audience for the first time as the joy permeated through them into their performances.
Nerine Skinner showed incredible versatility as our narrator of sorts, playing Mavis the Minstrel which called to mind the Rooster in Disney’s Robin Hood, except Nerine turned up the comedy to the max, had a belting voice, and could dance too – so not like the Rooster at all in fact. And what skill with a lute!
Ewan Grant charmed us all with his turn as sweet-natured Rob the Baker’s Boy, and what a gorgeous voice he has with his wonderful Scottish lilt. Playing his mother, Little Joan, was Chris Clarkson reprising his role as Dame. Chris was clearly at home with this, relishing in audience participation and daft gags, and he helped ensure that smiles were kept firmly on faces throughout.
Robin of Loxley was played with such a wicked campness by Samuel Knight, whose agility was just as impressive as his voice and comedic ability. Zweyla Mitchell dos Santos as Wil Scarlett brought energy, sass and sarcasm, and her beautiful duet with Ewan was a standout moment. Jessica Dennis made the most of her role as Maid Marion, giving her a heroic tough edge, alongside her sickly sweet all-round good egg vibes.
And finally, Craig Painting put in a hilarious and hugely energetic performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham, all the more funny alongside his pack of henchmen made up of the wonderful young company.
Costumes and set were beautiful, and the often overlooked lighting and sound effects were so, so precise, and all added up to a slick, smooth show that flowed so well.
It goes without saying that I’d heartily recommend The Legend of Robin Hood to you and your family, and even the most cynical of souls like myself. So, thank you to the fantastic Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds for an early festive pick-me-up. I’m off to put my decorations up and listen to Mariah Carey on repeat until New Year.
The Legend of Robin Hood continues at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds until the 14th Jan. Tickets are available via theatreroyal.org