REVIEW Robin Hood, Playhouse
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REVIEW: Robin Hood – Salisbury Playhouse
Review By: David Cradduck
Images: The Other Richard
Robin Hood, along with his band of merry men (and some women) has taken up residence in Sherwood Forest, aka the brilliant Salisbury Playhouse, for the festive period and beyond.
It’s been a few years since I had the pleasure of visiting the main theatre at the Playhouse so I had forgotten what a lovely, atmospheric and intimate (yet spacious) theatre it is.
The people are friendly, the doors wide, access is easy and as for legroom, well! Other theatres might have been tempted to cram in another few rows of seats but not Salisbury. This is Business Class Theatre at its best.
Which makes the business of putting on a panto so much more pleasurable for everyone, audience and cast alike – the stage creeps out into the auditorium, the players make full use of the aisles and audience interaction is, of course, the name of the day.
The stage is large enough to accommodate complex sets and lots of people but small enough for you to see and appreciate visual expressions. Warning: don’t sit in the middle of the front row if you don’t want to be an integral part of the show!
Sub-titled ‘The Family Pantomime’, Wiltshire Creative’soffering is Salisbury’s annual in-house highlight but you never get the feeling that this is home-grown or anything less than a highly professional show in every sense of the word.
There is no curtain so you have plenty of time to appreciate the detail and wonder of the set with its glitzy, toy-town-like trees, castle and forest hideout.
It’s never overdone but everything is colourful to match the costumes, lighting and action – with the exception of the language.
Yes, there a few gentle innuendos but nothing offensive or likely to make you squirm. This truly is a family panto for all ages – and they were all present in the audience from the very young (yes, even on a school night!) to us silver surfers.
A six-strong team of young performers compliments the line up of nine professional performers. Two teams alternate (the Red Arrows and the Blue Bows) and provide a highly professional back up to the main cast; in fact it is difficult to distinguish the youngsters, who probably enjoy the best choreography of the ensemble, from the pros, such is the high standard they set.
Our team was the Red Arrows who comprise Rosie Coyle, Gemina Hammond, Charlotte Louise Hunt, Joel Lancaster, Thea Milner-Smith and Catherine Treslove, and I’ll bet the Blue Bows are every bit as good.
Choreographer Nicky Griffiths says “The young people are extraordinary… this year, particularly, each person has their own moment to shine”. She’s right. They do, as they strike some cheeky poses whilst stealing the limelight from the principals.
Talking of principals, what an amazing talent that Nicky, along with director Gareth Machin and the production team have pulled together. There isn’t a weak link amongst them and they make full use of a strong collection of popular songs to sing their way through the story as well as tell it.
Deliberate or not, there are a few familiar nods to famous performers: Giovanni Spanó as the energetic, handsome Robin, bears more than a striking resemblance to singer Robbie Williams (and even sounds like him, especially in the opening number ‘Let Me Entertain You’).
And Greg Barnett as the loveably evil Sheriff of Nottingham is the absolute double for Rik Mayall’s Flashheart from Blackadder. True, he gets most of the best lines to work with, but he certainly knows how to deliver them to full effect.
In fact the script, penned with tongue firmly in cheek by Andrew Pollard is very clever – it works on so many levels depending on the age of the audience.
There are very modern touches, even one or two very topical references (how did Jeremy Corbyn and the B word creep into a Christmas panto?) but for the most part Robin Hood is great traditional panto with one-liners galore, many of which come from Adrian Grove as the colourful camp dame, Nurse Nora Virus.
To witness him/her fall head over heels in love with Friar Tuck (Leonard Cook) is wonderful and actually rather touching. Tuck, of course, is true to character as the food loving hoody. “So you’re the fish friar?” he is asked. “No” he replies, “I’m the chip monk!”. Love it.
Like the young performers, each of the principals has their own opportunity to shine: Alice Stokoe as the tomboyish Maid Marion is suitably gorgeous but feisty. Lauren Azania as an ‘Alan A’Dale’ with a secret (no spoilers here!) turns in a great supporting performance; and Bernadette Bangura, who enters to the theme tune of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ at every opportunity, is hilarious as the glittery Consuela.
She is obviously madly in love with the naughty Sheriff but to no avail (perhaps because she calls him ‘Sheri’) and is rather unkindly referred to by him as a “spotty, Spanish spinster”. Completing the main cast are the two principal chorus dancers Amber Sylvia Edwards and Shane Gibb and there you have it – a great team which, together with a very slick lighting and stage crew and backing orchestra led by ‘Uncle Chris’ Peake, brings this festive delight to you as a rounded, polished show.
My take on it? In four words: Go And See It. And prepare to be well and truly entertained.
Robin Hood runs at Salisbury Playhouse until 12 January and there are loads of morning, matinée and evening performances to choose from. But hurry!
More information and tickets are available by clicking this link – or call 01722 320 333.