Thursday, December 12, 2013
Robin Hood at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday, January 12. Review by Angela Singer.
With all the modern technology at their finger tips: smart phones, iPads and every whizzy thing, today’s children are still enchanted by a pantomime.
I have never seen a look of astonishment like that on the face of three-year-old Maja when Sophie Isaacs (playing Good Fairy Beyonce Willoweb) floated down onto the stage. It was the little girl’s first pantomime and I was afraid she might have been frightened by the villains, including a nightmarish witch but she enjoyed the show so much that at the end, she didn’t want to go home.
The Arts has taken a break this year from its usual four pantos (Aladdin, Cinderella, Dick Whittingdon and Jack and the Beanstalk) and branched out, as it were, into Sherwood Forest. There we also find two Babes in the Wood, Jack and Jill, characters played with personality on the press night by youngsters Oliver Dawson and Grace Ellis. This is a children’s show containing real children. And as the old witch might say, good enough to eat.
It’s gritty and witty but not sugary. At times, it does feel a bit like the Brothers Grimm, but with some great performances. Stephen Beckett as the Sheriff of Nottingham (Sheriff David, who has taken over from Sheriff Tony) is as arch a villain as you could get. In his black leathers, he is gorgeous. But then he does say he was trained at RADA and ASDA. What more could you want?
Good use is made of the strong voices of the principals, including Sophie Isaacs and Stephen Beckett, Lorna Want as a modern Maid Marian, trained in martial arts, the athletic Jonny Weldon as Will Scarlett and Ross Hunter as a Robin Hood who admits he has “failed to grasp the finer points of feminism”.
Written by director Michael Fentiman and Matt Crosby who plays the Dame, there are some nice local jokes. Dame Nurse Nelly says her bra is like Cambridge United: little support and no cups.
All the traditional fun is there, including the messy, slip-slidy slapstick scene when Nurse Nelly and her son Will Scarlett try to make soap, the glowing skeletons in the dark routine, and the show romps along with almost non-stop song and dance with the audience having to get on its feet and do the Harlem Shake every time naughty Will Scarlett appears on stage with his hands in his pockets.
The audience roared their heads off from start to finish. Once again, Cambridge Arts Theatre, the home of home-grown pantomime has found the antidote to winter.