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Robin Hood & the Babes in the Wood (Ipswich New Wolsey Theatre)

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So you thought that the Babes in the Wood were helpless innocent infants, did you? Wrong, at any rate as far as Peter Rowe’s take on their story is concerned. Britney (Sioned Saunders) and Whitney (Sophie Bryne) are a brace of extremely clued-up young women, adept with the brass (musical as well as financial) who have dropped into Nottingham from somewhere in Essex, possibly even from the Chigwell area.

It’s a rock’n’roll pantomime with a total very hard-working and talented cast of ten. Alex Tomkins is the titular hero with Shirley Darroch as a Marion who runs rings around his masculine ability to get things oh-just-so-slightly wrong. Sporting a wig and makeup which reflects those of Olivier in Richard III, Anthony Hunt is the nastiest Sheriff anywhere north of the Thames, and he has a sidekick in the shape of Tim Jackson’s Numbskull (aka Norbert Nobrain] who measures up to him, pudding-basin haircut and all.

Jackson and Steve Simmonds as fellow henchman Portcullis spend a lot of time being knocked about. Will Kenning as Nanny Nellie Nightnurse (to be taken in small doses, I feel) takes care of the rest of the slapstick, homing in on a hapless front-row audience member with ferocious glee – take care which seat you book, is my advice. Adam Flynn doubles the troubadour Blondel, who introduces the show, and Will Scarlet with [Jared Ashe as a bespectacled Much.

Designer Dawn Allsopp has provided a fine set, dominated by a revolving tower, and the bright costumes are an easy blend of medieval and contemporary influences. The grave-trap comes into play, with its submerged water jets (another good reason to avoid the front couple of rows), and an array of animal hand puppets make their welcome annual appearance. Musical director David Randall makes the most of the cast’s considerable vocal and instrumental abilities.


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