Pros: A proper panto. Silly, outrageous and great fun to join in. A diverse and engaging cast. And there are no damsels in distress in this modern panto!
Cons: Cheap and cheerful (but that’s OK ‘cos it’s a panto). A few dodgy costumes, not the best vocal performances.
Panto time! The Theatre Royal Stratford East is running a Christmas production of Robin Hood. And they’ve given the Midland maverick a particular London twist. Instead of Nottingham, our green-clad crusader lives in Strattyham. Though Robin still does battle against the infamous Prince John and his crony, the Sheriff.
Like any traditional panto, Stratford’s Robin Hood is silly, light-hearted and full of ridiculous jokes. I’d put this production on the cheap and cheerful end of the spectrum, but it is probably easier, therefore, to throw yourself into the playful spirit. Yes, there are a few dodgy costumes (I’m sure I spot some rubber gloves and shower loofahs somewhere), and yes some of the singing is distinctly average, but it doesn’t really detract from the fun. I laughed throughout, and so did all the children in the audience. (Yes, I was at a panto without anyone under the age of twenty-one to make me look at least a little like a functioning adult. But hey, it’s Christmas and Christmas isn’t Christmas without a good old panto.)
All of the actors got into the spirit well. The show is jokey and silly, so it’s totally fine (and actually quite welcome) when some of the cast crack up on stage and when someone forgets their lines. You can tell Michael Bertenshaw, as Prince John, is an old hand. He plays an enjoyably detestable and sarcastic panto villain. It’s always good to boo when Prince John hatches his villainous plots. Though Derek Elroy as Nurse really steals the show. From flamboyant dancing, to witty quips, to outrageous flirting with an audience member (Tony, you played along wonderfully), Elroy had us in stitches from start to finish.
I like how Stratford’s Robin Hood strays from the traditional fairy tale. This Maid Marion is no damsel in distress. And this Robin Hood is no perfect hero. The writers (Trish Cooke and Robert Hyman) have thought hard about mixing a traditional Medieval Robin Hood with forward-looking social attitudes. The women in this production are more interesting than your typical beautiful love interests. What’s more, it is great to see such a diverse cast. Thought a couple more women would make the balance perfect.
The show takes place in the Theatre Royal Stratford East, which is like a miniature opera house, complete with ornate decoration and viewing boxes. A great venue for a panto! And you’re right by the Westfield, so it’s easy to reach and, with all those restaurants nearby, you can easily make a Christmas family night out of it. All in all, Robin Hood is good fun, if a little rough and ready.
Writers: Trish Cooke and Robert Hyman
Venue: Theatre Royal Stratford East
Booking Link: http://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/all-shows/robin-hood#schedules