Robin Hood hits the bulls eye! With box office records being smashed for this production, it's evident that the audiences know what to expect and writer, producer and director Michael Harrison delivers it, as usual, in bucketfuls.
Back for their sixth pantomime in a row are father and son comedy duo, Clive Webb and Danny Adams, who immediately connect with the audience as they descend from high above the stage. Joining them once again are Chris Hayward (Nurse Rita), Steve Arnott (The Sherriff) and Phil Corbit (Worky Ticket). While Tupele Dorgu (Coronation Street) as The Sorceress, and Michael Quinn (Grease is the Word) as Will Scarlett, are new to the Company this year.
In typical Harrison style, twists are added to the original story that takes our hero on a journey to meet a Geordie Dragon, which flies out over the audience. On the way we have what must be the most effective 3D sequence ever seen in a theatre, as well as plenty of special effects and illusions. While there is no "slosh scene", there is an amazing enchanted waterfall, which can actually answer questions by spelling words.
Over the years the panto casts in Newcastle have gained an almost repertory theatre feel to them with the leading players coming back year after year. This can best be demonstrated by Michael Potts, who has never spoken while being on stage over the years, as far as I can recall, but always makes a memorable impression on the audiences, even in cameo roles. This year he plays Little John and although he still does speak, with his deadpan looks and comic timing, he has the audience in the palm of his hand. Interestingly, Alan A Dale is played by his brother Danny Potts, both of whom are brothers to Danny Adams.
With the whole show being fast moving, funny and extremely well dressed; it is hard to pick out any highlights, as there are so many. But the scene in which Will Scarlett sings to Maid Marion (Lauren Hall), while Robin Hood tries to separate them, must be one of the funniest in panto history.
It is hard to imagine that any other pantomime, regardless of special effects or star casting, can come anywhere near beating the Theatre Royal panto once again this year.
With booking already open for next year's pantomime Sleeping Beauty, when Michael Harrisons brings Clive Webb and Danny Adams back to the Theatre Royal for a seventh time, there is no doubting further box office records will be deservedly smashed.