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Refreshing update turns an old folk tale into pantomime magic

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 28, 2012

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REVIEW

Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple, until January 5

If you go down to the woods today you'll find more mirth than you can shake a staff at. Robin Hood and his merriest of men are cracking one liners and sharing such good banter that you would willingly swear allegiance – if you could only enter their world. They also indulge in some spirited sword play with the hapless Sheriff of Nottingham and his soldiers. Fight scenes are excellently constructed by director and choreographer Kenn Oldfield who also creates some switched-on dance moves delivered by this talented company.

Treated to a new script by Gary Clarkson, this much-loved English folk tale has been tweaked with dramatic pizazz. The result is a swashbuckling adventure, liberated from a rut of cliched lines and predictable plot, to be a fresh, original piece of vibrant entertainment.

Aston Dobson is a dashing Robin Hood with a fine voice and stage magnetism. Love interest is provided by Laura Main as an alluring Maid Marian. Evil deeds are the domain of the Sheriff of Nottingham, given a brilliant air of Machiavellian menace bordering on childish petulance by Jonathan Wadey. Richard Alan is a treasure as Friar Tuck. While most pantos have the obligatory dame, here is something refreshing. Dragooned into dressing as a woman to help rescue Marian, Alan makes much mileage from this. No matter how much swashbuckling there is, no panto is complete without its magic, which comes from Lisa J Hanson as the Forest Fairy, an ethereal creature greeting all with a cheery "Hiya".

This excellent piece of festive fare is too good to miss.

ROGER MALONE

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