The Attic Theatre, Stratford upon Avon, Friday 16th December, 2022
You might think the intimate performance space at Stratford’s Attic Theatre would be too restrictive to stage a pantomime. Well, you’d be reckoning without the genius of Tread The Boards’ resident writer-director John Robert Partridge. He puts the focus on his cast of six to deliver all the conventions of the art form, supported by the tech crew, and quite frankly, we are too busy laughing to miss grand-scale spectacular scenes which other, larger venues can accommodate. Partridge frames the story how we would expect: a fairy in a pink spot, the villain in a green… but because it’s Robin Hood, we don’t know precisely what the plot will entail, unlike the more well-worn pantomimes, and this adds freshness to the production.
Opening the show and winning us over instantly is Florence Sherratt as fabulous Fairy Fabulous, friendly and funny, contrasting sharply with Joshua Chandos’s marvellously wicked Sheriff of Nottingham. Chandos is darkly camp and never short of hilarious – and he has the best hair.
Emily Tietz’s Maid Marian is no shrinking violet, with her movie-star looks and a valiant spirit; while Dan Grooms’s Robin may be a long time coming but is definitely worth the wait. For all his posing, posturing, and knee-slapping, it is Robin who must be rescued from the Sheriff’s clutches by Marian and the others.
Those others: Silly Willy – Dominic Selvey is a lovable buffoon with an indefatigable supply of quick-fire one-liners. When he gets three volunteer children from the audience for a rendition of Music Man, he’s on a steep learning curve! Playing Willy’s mother, Dame Tuck, is Pete Meredith, a consummate panto dame, cheeky bordering on bawdy, and sporting a range of eye-wateringly garish outfits as the show goes on.
The songs are mainly lifted from Disney, with a touch of ABBA; there’s a wonderful send-up of the Bryan Adams mega-hit, Everything I Do I Do For You, and an exciting climactic swordfight between Robin and the Sheriff while Dame Tuck belts out her best Bonnie Tyler.
Adam Clarke’s set design comprises a stylised forest backdrop complete with a real tree trunk, the branches of which stretch across the ceiling. The set is rendered multi-purpose by Kat Murray’s lighting and the dialogue, proving you don’t need elaborate scenery to evoke location and atmosphere.
There’s plenty of audience participation. This reviewer was picked on to be Dame Tuck’s ‘boyfriend’ and it could have been worse! I think I got off lightly…
A riotous, fun-filled evening and an affordable seasonal treat. As a measure of every panto, I glance around at the nearby children in the audience to see if they’re enthralled. And tonight they’re lapping it up.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Full of beans: Dominic Selvey gives us his Silly Willy, with Pete Meredith’s Dame Tuck behind
(Photo: Andrew Maguire Photography)