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The Northern Echo - Review: Robin Hood and his Merry Mam!

Mon 17 Dec 2012

Written by Steve Pratt

 

There are certain things audiences expect from a panto at York Theatre Royal. Familiar faces, a new script full of old gags and visual jokes, Martin Barrass being skippy and silly, a chorus of professional dancers, good songs, great costumes, a guest appearance by the BBC’s Harry Gration and, of course, Dame Berwick Kaler himself (now in his 34th year – that’s the number of Theatre Royal panto appearances not his age).

This year’s extravaganza Robin Hood And His Merry Mam doesn’t disappoint on any of those counts. Nor does it fail, as usual at the start of the run, to be too long, although co-directors Kaler and Damian Cruden will surely snip ten or 15 minutes from the running time so audiences don’t get too much of a good thing.

And Robin Hood is mostly very good indeed with – this is the real shock – a plot (the one thing that Kaler usually forgets) about Robin saving the royal babes in the wood from the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

Not for nothing is the story set in a town called Hamalot, not so much a name as a critique of the acting.

What’s different this year is a new baddie with Jonathan Race easily inciting boos as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

He plays it straight and is all the funnier/ scarier because of that.

Martin Barrass has childish fun as a sheriff, the first Archbishop of York and carrot (a little something for vegetarians in the audience) and Suzy Cooper’s chirpy, sexy Marian’s big song is ingeniously mixed with one of the two filmed excerpts. The second film finds Kaler embracing gangnam-style with a quite splendid number called Panto Style.

Vincent Gray returns after a two-year absence as heroic Robin, Sian Howard has twice the fun as Lady Hamalot and Broomhilda. AJ Powell’s fabulous legs are back, supporting a performer who’s risen from the ranks of the chorus and proved himself an all-round panto performer.

As for Kaler, he delivers twice. First with a script that’s a mix of the old and the new, the traditional and the innovative. As a performer he’s still funny, fearless and always mindful of his audience.

Read the review on The Northern Echo website.

 

 

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