This year’s pantomime at the Swan Theatre breaks with tradition by placing Maid Marian rather than Robin Hood centre stage, and pairing her with a formidably forceful female Sheriff.
The resulting scenario is uncannily reminiscent of As You Like It, and the acting of both performers is sensitively assured. In many ways this is a production in pastel shades: it eschews lurid coarseness and celebrity casting for wholesome family fare – this is panto as it should be.
Sherwood has become Arden in designer Gareth Morgan’s hands. But author Chris Jaeger and the cast pay retain many of the essential delights of panto, from hissable villainy to outrageous panto-damery. The production has an irresistible exuberance and fires up its audience accordingly.
The choreography is sharp too, and the medley finale is a masterclass of the art. Genevieve Lowe’s Marian is feisty and confident, while Tom Riddell’s Robin Hood is a modern man in touch with his female side. Liz Grand treats us to an audience-inflaming Sheriff with Wilf Williams as her comically chaotic sidekick, Guy of Gisborne.
John-Robert Partridge’s Dame Ginny faces a stern challenge in following Ben Humphrey’s sequence of star turns in this venue, but he meets it magnificently. The brilliant puppet sequence is the icing on this Christmas cake.