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Robin Hood review at Theatre Royal Stratford East – ‘riotous’

Ashley Campbell and Michael-Bertenshaw in Robin Hood at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Photo: Robert Day Ashley Campbell and Michael-Bertenshaw in Robin Hood at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Photo: Robert Day
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A good pantomime is usually a moral fable, writ large with lots of added sparkle. The legend of Robin Hood, already a touchstone for equality in British culture is given the Stratford East treatment, emerging as a riotous family entertainment, big on laughs and wearing its heart boldly on its sleeve.

Writer Trish Cooke adds regular pantomime devices to the classic story, including Derek Elroy’s gloriously flirtatious dame and a strong line in common sense: a happy ending doesn’t need justification by marriage. Robert Hyman’s urgent, original score references a swathe of cross-cultural music styles, while the catchy song-sheet acts as a contemporary mantra to stress relief.

There’s jousting, giant worms, dragons and drag-races but the Theatre Royal’s artistic director Kerry Michael is firmly in control as director, ensuring that the pace never slackens, with no-nonsense audience participation. Oliver Wellington’s quixotic Robin finds redemption through Ashley Campbell’s tap-dancing King Richard but of course, it’s Nadia Albina’s secret sharp-shooter Marian who saves the day.

Amid this talented ensemble, Stratford East regular Michael Bertenshaw lets his hair down as the deliciously evil Prince John. Bertenshaw is instinctively inventive in the show, getting as many cheers as boos. That’s the great thing about a TRSE pantomime – it celebrates tradition ultimately by flouting convention.

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A riotous, fun-filled celebration of a British legend that flies in the face of convention