Bingley writer Trish Cooke and composer Robert Hyman’s Robin Hood embodied the real spirit of pantomime this Christmas at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London. Set in a fictional town called Strattyham (perhaps to honour the locality of where the play is shown), director Kerry Michael and designers Hattie Barsby and Jenny Tiramani are due credit for every smile and gasp when a new scene unfolds on active set pieces, such as a moving drawbridge and a floating dragon.
From the moment the curtain was lifted, kids jumped up from their seats to hiss and boo Prince John, played by Michael Bertenshaw, whenever he schemed with Sheriff, played by Richard Sumitro. They were ecstatic to see Oliver Wellington’s Robin Hood and his merry men dancing and singing in costumes designed to be recognisable to 21st Century England. They called out to Robin Hood’s Merry Men, who reacted by showering them with sweets, it was clear this pantomime had made a connection in the hearts and minds of the audience.
It is refreshing to see Maid Marion rise above the traditional depiction of a delicate aristocrat or an adventure-seeking tomboy. Nadia Albina’s feisty Maid Marion shows that disability should not discourage one from dancing with the leader of the pack, facing your nemesis, or picking up your bow and aiming for your destiny. There is no shortage of comedy lines from Maid Marion’s companion Nurse, who sang ‘Hold on to your coconut’ on return from a shopping trip. Played by Derek Elroy, Nurse is delightful in every appearance, and steals the show.
Reviewed by Ahmer Bashir at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London. Runs till 23 January.