Robinson Crusoe & the Caribbean Pirates (Southampton)
A mesmeric fusion of spectacular lighting effects and magical storytelling makes the Mayflower Theatre's ''Robinson Crusoe'' a sheer delight
If you loved last year's Jack in the Beanstalk, you will be delighted to hear that the same company, Qdos Entertainment, has staged this wonderful production of Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates. This timeless classic is somewhat removed from Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel about a castaway, but from the opening chord this is a fantastic explosion of colour, sound and laughter.
The mesmeric fusion of spectacular lighting effects and magical, totally believable scenes, together with a wildly energetic company, lead us joyfully into the best of British pantomime. There is something for everyone, a real family show. Producer/director Michael Harrison is the current 'King of Pantomime' in the UK and it is easy to see why. With Karen Bruce as choreographer, and a crack creative team, he has produced a scintillating show.
The score, which has been modernised effectively to ensure it captivates all age groups, is incredibly played by only five musicians, passionately led by George Dyer. The script, although I imagine it changes at each performance, is bang up to date and refers to current affairs and personalities.
Brian Conley as Robinson Crusoe is truly inspirational. He has the audience eating out of his hand in his own inimitable visual style from the outset. He dominates the stage and the adlibs and occasional corpse just add to the feast of fun he emanates.
He is wonderfully supported by Lesley Joseph as the Enchantress, who glitters and shines as the magical, yet feisty, good fairy in this tale. Similarly, the evil Pirate Blackheart played with a menacing twinkle by Gavin Woods is suitably demonic and elicits delighted boos from the enthralled audience throughout.
Mrs Crusoe (Andrew Ryan) Robinson's madcap mum, is hilarious yet endearing, and is everything a classic dame should be, including the changing of many outrageous and extravagant costumes, which reportedly he makes himself!
Katheryn Rooney, as Crusoe's romantic interest Polly, sings beautifully and endures a cringe worthy apple spitting scene with Crusoe. Together with John Coates as her long suffering, Major General father, they complete a superb front line, whose intrinsic chemistry with each other lifts the show into the rafters.
Leon Lopez plays the hunky, chest twitching islander, Friday, and is certainly eye candy for the ladies. The Mazeppa Cossacks although seemingly a red herring, perform brilliantly in their traditional Russian style and features Conley sportingly joining in.
The youngsters from the Lindsey Read Dance School dance effortlessly and professionally, complementing the multi-talented ensemble.
There are a few surprises, including Conley's camera trick on the audience, a spectacular fire breathing sea monster, and a flying car to suspend the disbelief yet further. This is Brian Conley at his exemplary best. This panto is a sheer delight.
- Veronica Crowley