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The Yorker - Review: Robin Hood and his Merry Mam!

Mon 17 Dec 2012

Written by Katharine Wootton

 

There are those that like their panto am-dram style, full of local gags, the farce of faulty props, fluffed lines and the allure of seeing the same panto culprits year in year out making a fool of themselves in tights in a chilly church hall. Then there are others who prefer panto’s more glamorous glitter-clad twin, sparkling with X-Factor rejects and Coronation Street extras. Yet in Robin Hood and His Merry Mam, the latest offering from the zany world of Berwick Kaler, these two faces of panto come together (minus the dodgy third-rate celebs) with full-bodied local enthusiasm playing out among spectacular sets and stunning sparkle to a thronging audience.

Determined to defy the curse of formulaic panto (don’t worry the he’s behind you’s and copious amounts of Wagon Wheels aren't going to go anywhere), Robin Hood succeeds in sustaining the attention of excitable tots, apathetic teens and Christmas-harassed parents by a constant unpredictability. From fat suits to a breath-takingly funny film featuring some rather bemused pensioners, you very quickly realise that is is not a panto from which you should expect much sense and sanity. Roughly following the trials of Robin Hood (played masterfully and rather handsomely by Vincent Gray) as he seeks to right the monarchy with the help of Marian (played with shrill girlishness and wide-eyed innocence by Suzy Cooper), Kaler’s script only just about manages to hold onto a basic coherent story- but who needs a plot anyway?

Not afraid to throw in some hell of a curveball with wincingly touchy contemporary references (Catholic monks certainly get a raw deal in Kaler’s hands), there are plenty of times when the crowds of adults force back belly laughs in the face of clearly bewildered children- an evident sign that panto has never been just for kids, even if this sometimes seems to leave the children a bit lost. And the audience aren’t the only ones at the edge of their seats to see what the dame does next with Kaler’s ceaseless antics seeing the cast also forced to reign in giggles. But however much anarchy Kaler as the master of improv might bring, it’s very true that you cannot help but keep glancing at the wings waiting for his next moment on stage, willing the madness to continue.

But away from all the silliness and humour, what is especially engaging about Robin Hood is the attention to detail and masterful precision paid in every aspect of the production. From the stunning costumes glittering with intricate patterns and ingenious design to the constantly changing technicolour sets both by Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith, no stone was left unturned when it came to the visual effect of the show. Brendan Matthew’s challenging yet top-notch choreography excellently performed by the cast and ensemble is also particularly worth note as some of the most creative choreography I have seen in a pantomime. A couple of charming Beatrix Potter-esque scenes also added some much needed sweetness and light to the evening’s proceedings as Mr and Mrs Badger along with the Hedgehogs’ and many other woodland couples all with a rather strange hybrid blend of Yorkshire, Somerset and Brummie accents created theatre magic.

Suitable for the die-hard Kaler fans and York panto virgins like myself alike, Robin Hood and His Merry Mam! is a vibrant and barmy production stamped with simple good-willing Yorkshire charm that gets you fired and filled up with enough pantomime frolics to fuel you through the year.

Read the review on The Yorker website.

 

 

 

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