Robin Hood and his Merry Men, Rugby Theatre, Jan 12 to 21.
The Rugby Theatre have succeeded in producing a traditional family pantomime with just the right amount of cheese for it to work, and that includes Friar Tuck’s Brie joke.
It pushes all the right buttons with colourful costumes, an outrageous Dame, corny jokes, audience participation and two very original tricks by Martin Upjohn.
The scene is set before one enters the auditorium with children buying light sabres and flashing snowflakes which are later used to support one of Tinkerbell’s spells. Everything is designed to maximise their delight and participation.
The opening zombie dance number is well choreographed as are all of the troupe’s set pieces and, notwithstanding the variety of ages, the girls form a cohesive team and punctuate scenes with some lively and engaging numbers. The soundtrack to the show is made up of well-known pop songs from Black Lace to S Club 7 and the cast give it plenty of enthusiasm which is reciprocated by the audience.
Mark Baird’s Sheriff of Nottingham does a wonderfully camp turn with Michael Jackson’s “Bad”, complete with a single silver glove.
The show is delightfully over the top as a panto should be. There are some exquisitely painted backdrops that enable lightning scene changes. Sue Henry, Jay Lad and Kelly Taylor have done a wonderful job on costumes, make-up and wigs. Peter Privett’s Dame makes each entrance with even bigger hairdos and accessories. The three witches’ costumes are hideously covered in Day-Glo slime and glitter.
There's a slapstick cake making scene, and some local colour too with jokes at the expense of Coventrians and name checks for several Warwickshire villages. The baddies are really bad, which delights the audience. Andy Smith’s King John, who looks like a cross between Henry VIII and Old King Cole, gets reminded that he is not the real king with every appearance. The Sheriff’s henchmen, Pitbull and Bulldog receive equally short shrift from the stalls.
There are some nice contemporary references and even Obi Wan Kenobi drifts in to lend a (sleight of) hand as the show builds to a climax. The audience get their chance and sing along to the Robin Hood theme with some gender-based competition, and of course it all ends well and they all live happily ever after.
The panto formula still works and this run will delight many families in the vacuum post-Christmas.
Pictured is Deita Hubbard as Robin Hood, Mark Baird as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Peter Privett as Dame Mary.
Bookings from www.rugbytheatre.co.uk