The most striking thing about author Alan McHugh’s Robin Hood and the Merry Men is that there is no dame. Not that it matters, as there’s plenty of camp humour from Jack Land Noble’s saucy Friar Tuck and Kev Orkian’s cheeky, dynamic Simple Simon.
As quick-witted and appealing as Orkian is, the draw again this year is Ashley Banjo as Robin Hood and his dance troupe Diversity playing the Merry Men. Banjo’s choreography not only features many of Diversity’s signature moves but it also presents a narrative suggested by the mood of each scene. Part street-dance, part acrobatics, each set piece flashes with energy and precision timing.
The unfeasibly statuesque Banjo is a confident leading man matched in power, if not height by Lauren Chia’s spirited Maid Marian. Vocalist Gina Murray also makes an impression as an irrepressibly Essex-inspired Spirit of Sherwood Forest.
You might be able to get away without a dame in panto, but you can’t do without a great villain and Daniel Boys as the Sheriff of Nottingham strikes all the right chords. Bellowing, shifty and slightly camp, Boys puts his vocal training to great use whether jeering at the crowd or belting out Meatloaf astride a seven-foot vampire bat.