Robin Hood, Queen of Thieves is what the Ambridge village panto
would be if Linda Snell smoked pot. The strong stuff. With all the
essential panto ingredients of lame jokes, almost non-existent
production values, men dressed as women, women dressed as talking
donkeys, topical references and audience participation, Jon Bradfield's
and Martin Hooper's production is for adults only, so there's also
plenty of single entendre jokes and sexual innuendo, many provided by
Jonson Wilkins' Fairy narrator.
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!