The defining factor that separates good pantomimes from great pantomimes is not just the connexion with the audience; it is also the connexions within the cast. A perfect example of this can be found in Eastbourne’s brilliant festive treat. This is not just a pantomime cast – this is more like a family of performers.
Chris Jordan has, as usual, assembled an incredibly talented and, in most cases, familiar team who all act, sing, dance and, to be honest, work their socks off to make sure that the audience has the best possible experience. This is a pantomime in the very best tradition, and the audience reaction throughout shows that young and old alike are able to find plenty to enjoy.
The Sheriff of Nottingham, played by John Altman is suitably evil and with the help of Karen Mann as his mother, Morgiana, they make a tremendously nasty double-act with both children and adults soon filling the air with boos and hisses. Tracey Penn, every inch the traditional Principal Boy, is just perfect as Robin Hood. Playing with the full thigh-slapping gusto that the role demands, she powers her way through the musical numbers, shows that she is a very proficient dancer and provides the audience with the perfect antidote to all that evil.
After taking a break from the cast last year, Carl Patrick returns to take the role of Will Scarlet which he plays with comic perfection. Enticing the children to scream “Watcha Willy” every time he appears gets plenty of sniggers from the younger section of the audience and allows Martyn Knight, as his mother, Dame Desdemona Double-Top, to provide the older spectators with a few saucy jokes and double entendres. Wearing 11 amazing costumes, ranging from a baby–doll nightie to a full crinoline with various huge creepy-crawlies all over it, every entrance was a spectacular revelation.
Robin’s love interest, and ward of King Richard, Maid Marion Francesca Leyland is perfectly cast as she is suitably regal, but with more than a touch of vulnerability about her. The band of Merry Men is completed by David Alder, Nicholas Colicos and Ray Griffiths as Friar Tuck, Little John and Much the Miller’s son respectively, who all do their very best to extract every laugh they can out of the more-than-willing audience.
The finales to act one and two were both as spectacular as they were unusual and helped, once again, to make this pantomime stand out from the crowd. From the moment the curtain went up to reveal an opening number lifted straight from Les Misèrables, to the climax of the production – which could easily have been lifted from the show that is soon to be seen at the Palace Theatre in London – this piece is a total and utter gem. I cannot award six stars for a performance but if I could, I honestly would.