What better way to cheer us up on a wet and windy February evening than a bit of panto fun, and with Robin Hood, written and directed by Kate Burrows and Peter Marcus, Phoenix Players gave us fun in spades.
Whether or not Robin Hood actually existed is a matter of conjecture, but we are all familiar with the story that has evolved over the centuries and it proved a good basis for a panto, with Robin and his forces of good fighting the forces of evil represented by the Sheriff of Nottingham and King John. Naturally, Robin and his friends triumph in the end when King Richard returns from the crusades, restores law and order to the land and all ends happily ever after.
Kate and Peter’s script was fast paced and full of bad jokes (one so obscure it had to be explained to me!) with lots of opportunities for audience participation. The principals were well chosen to make the most of the script. Sophie Nickerson was a calm and commanding Robin, well matched with Sophie Rowsell as the bubbly, enthusiastic Much. Chris Wrein made a magnificently evil Sheriff, striding around the stage threatening the audience, and he was well supported by Irene Skelton as King John, who could put the Sheriff down with just a look – wonderful! Both exploited their height differences to good effect too. Kevin Stokes, complete with beard, was a strong dame, Nurse Nessie, with some great costumes and a nice line in corny jokes, but was, I felt, a little underused by the script. The Sheriff’s Guards, This and That (great names and the source of much confusion) were played to the hilt by Tyrone Baptiste and Ivy Burrows. Both acted just the right degree of stupidity and were well versed in handling a live audience, and Ivy’s physicality and stage presence was wonderful to watch. Juliet Hasker made a suitably alluring Maid Marian and Jo Webb, in striking costume, saved the day as King Richard.
The principals were well supported by the company of merry ‘men’ and I must compliment the younger members particularly – the Robin Hoodies – for their confidence and characterisation.
The costumes were well thought-out, appropriate and colourful and were complimented by the lighting and a well-made set and good props. Scene changes took place rapidly (if a little noisily on the first night) behind the curtain while the action distracted us in front. Sound effects were great and well-timed. The songs were well chosen to be relevant to the plot and the music was provided by soundtracks. While they were of good quality, I felt they made life a little difficult for the singers at times.
I don’t normally comment on the programme in my reports, but this one was exceptional. Colourful, informative and innovative in its layout and style – a thoroughly professional job – nice page on NODA too! Well done to Confetti Canon Productions (yes, I eventually found the credit!) – you should advertise your services more widely.
By their reaction at the curtain call, the whole audience, adults and children alike, had obviously enjoyed themselves. My companion and I emerged from the theatre back into the drizzle agreeing that we’d both had a great time – what more can you ask of a piece of theatre? Well done everyone involved.