Light, bright, and cheerful, Andrew Pollard’s Robinson Crusoe is a breezy adventure with a few subversive twists. After a boilerplate first half loaded with obligatory pirate puns and seafood gags, he throws some curveballs into his script, prodding at traditional panto’s problematic assumptions.
Forceful female characters come to the fore. When Crusoe gets caught kissing his false-moustache-wearing love interest, they’re congratulated beneath a rainbow flag. And the obligatory bench skit is interrupted by a Native American warrior woman scalping a grotesque, thunderously flatulent Trump, leaving him looking like Leatherface in a bad tie.
Heading the cast, Pollard makes a poised dame in his 12th appearance at Greenwich Theatre, sashaying regally about in sequined gowns and nautically themed get-ups. Matt Jolly is a good-natured Crusoe, even if he is eclipsed by Michaela Bennison’s sheltered but resourceful Polly. Anthony Spargo convincingly channels Jack Sparrow as pirate Gingerbeard, proving his villainy by shooting puppet critters when they pop up as backing singers during the musical numbers.
Steve Markwick’s soundtrack is a pleasant selection of rock’n’roll and modern pop mash-ups. The closing song, a bouncy cover of Canned Heat’s Let’s Work Together, underlines the show’s message of equality.