The plot, as much as a plot is ever needed in a panto, turns on Matthew Baldwin's villainous Sheriff of Nottingham taking over Friar Tuck's Cottage Hospital. He wants to keep all the business for his own private establishment. Robin Hood, played with just the right level of bouncy enthusiasm by Guy Warren-Thomas in a green hoodie, saves the day (of course), on the way hooking up with the handsome Dr Marion Maid. Adrian Quinton as Marion provides one of the stand-out moments of the show with a gloriously un-PC performance of the Peter Sellers/Sophia Loren classic "Goodness Gracious Me" in duet with the hilarious Brendan Riding camping it up as Matron. Otherwise the singing is slightly dodgy, giving a joke about the X Factor's Wagner an added irony.
Mansel David makes a terrific Friar Tuck, gobbling up everything edible that comes within his reach and smoking huge spliffs. Sam Sadler provides pathos as he pines over Marion and Robin and Caroline Wagstaffe powers her way through the supporting role of Little Joan.
Royce Ullah's direction could occasionally be sharper and scene changes are a bit slow, which stops the otherwise quick-fire action. A couple of the jokes are so lame even the warmed up full house couldn't dredge up a laugh and a cream pie scene either needs more rehearsal or should be cut. It's a jolly romp though, acted with huge enthusiasm, the required sense of the ridiculous and a complete lack of pretension. Panto has seen a great resurgence in recent years. If they keep providing this much fun for their adult audience, the Above The Stag panto could become as much a part of the Christmas tradition as mince pies and mistletoe. Oh yes it could!
- Carole Gordon
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