Artistic director Douglas Rintoul’s first panto for Queen’s Theatre is a traditional, energetic production.
Phil Adèle’s Robin Hood and Barbara Hockaday’s Maid Marian make an earnest, likeable pair, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re both in good voice.
Lawrence Cole does a credible Jack Whitehall impression as the distractingly cod-pieced Sheriff of Nottingham, while Georgina Field shrieks up a storm as his sorceress mother Morgana, who’s after the immortality-giving “magic stone of Ingatestone” – one of surprisingly few local references.
The cast gets to show off its command of a range of musical instruments on designer Richard Foxton’s set of glittery trees and a squat pink castle. There’s also a brief glimpse of an impressive dragon puppet, but Stephen Pemble’s lighting, while otherwise efficient, is too dark here to make it out well.
Rintoul whizzes through various courtships, the search for Marian’s lost sister (Ruth Brotherton) and the obligatory archery competition, the latter scene entailing some poorly-judged ‘Mexican’ disguises.
There’s a gloopy wallpaper-paste decorating sequence that goes down well with the kids, but the pacing feels rushed, the production too talky. There’s barely time to land the laughs, making John Barr’s Nanny Fanny slightly frantic compared with his turn last year, and Robin himself is strangely absent.
The musical choices are old but gold, aimed more at parents: The Boys Are Back in Town receives two spirited outings, while a love medley featuring Elvis songs offers physical comedy as Robert Took’s Friar Tuck and the Sheriff compete for Nanny Fanny’s affections. The cast is supported by a very game chorus of youngsters, whose simple but well-choreographed dancing by Sundeep Saini is a high point.