Robin Hood. Lighthouse, Poole www.childrenstheatremagazine.co.uk
The panto season is here again. Oh yes it is! Excited children, noisy music and carefully sited merchantising.
The Lighthouse Poole does Christmas panto with gusto, with this year’s offering of Robin Hood a rich mix for children, parents and grandparents. It starts well with a loud clap-along musical introduction and energetic dancing from the adult chorus and the child dancers.
The evening is the familiar mix of simplified story, dancing, songs, silliness, slapstick, very old jokes and traditional comic episodes; they even managed to squeeze in a decorator’s slapstick scene.
This old reviewer had to remind herself that old jokes are still funny – and new to those who have not heard them before – as my young neighbour fell about laughing at the school scene that featured cross-dressing and much double entendre.
Ed Petrie carries the title role of Robin Hood with easy athletic charm, every inch the hero and he worked the audience beautifully. His hat was miraculously and mysteriously stuck to his head throughout energetic dancing. And his classic song in front of the curtains was a masterpiece of silliness.
Maid Marian was played by Alicia Woodhouse who was sweet and lovely as a traditional heroine, but with her obvious skills she should have been given more to do than looking pretty and vulnerable. Isn’t it time for more positive female role models than this outdated 70s caricature? (Script writer please take note.)
Fairy Mary appeared in a puff of smoke for a chat with the audience, and was far more lively than the maid of the forest – and was rather more decorative than one might expect.
The real star (as is often the case in panto) is the villain. Here it’s the Sheriff of Nottingham, played very ably by Patrick O’Kane, who worked the audience well from a standing start. Indeed the boys and girls in the audience were well primed to boo him in his elegant tights and boots. His solo song, “It’s all about me,” was edgy… and charming.
However the balance of the show weighted heavily towards colour and sweetness, with the charming villain in black was sadly outnumbered. He badly needed to have some henchmen or visible power to demonstrate that Robin and Marian were under a threat from which they could (or could not) escape.
The dancing improved through the evening as the dancers warmed up. Highlights included the magical toys – coming alive in a dream sequence, and the fairies dancing in the green wood.
The staging and scenery were fine, though underused. A bit more flying or movement around the theatre might have pepped up the magic. While the last beautiful set was rather wasted by the short amount of time one had to see it – the audience needed to pay attention for its brief appearance.
Oh Yes! It had all one may expect of panto. Oh No! There was nothing to scare the nervous. Oh Yes! The script was simple, with few contemporary references and stuck in the past.
Oh No! Things do not change in the Lighthouse’s panto land.
It seems a pity that with an audience consisting of many Brownies, there were no sparky girl role models for them to identify with, while the drama’s females were mostly decorative.
Oh Yes! the villain had the best lines.
Oh Yes! The children loved it. (But they deserved better.)
Alex Brenton 3 stars
The pantomime continues until Sunday 4th January. For details visit www.lighthousepoole.co.uk