ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MAM!
by Berwick Kaler.
Theatre Royal St Leonard’s To 2 February 2013.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01904 623568.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 December.
Half-a-lifetime on, Berwick’s still got it bang-to-rights.
It’s Berwick Kaler’s 34th. Birthday, he’d have you believe, but actually York Pantomime. Or party-time. A Kaler ceilidh, a mass family reunion, a keep-the-cold-out razzmatazz of an evening, or afternoon.
Families return over years, or decades, knowing what to expect: mere house-lights lowering and cymbals shimmering raise an auditorium-deep cheer. The sight of scenery increases the volume. As do actual actors; each of the regulars receives a massive cheer. But when Kaler’s Dame enters in the first of her fantastic costumes, on some elaborately-forged vehicle, the reception reaches structure-threatening proportions before she can get a word in. Or rather, her inevitable four-word greeting, “Me babbies, me bairns”.
This year she’s a schoolteacher. For a time. Quite who she becomes, why people do much of what they do, or where the plot took a wrong turning and separated itself from the action, doesn’t matter. There’s only one serious note, with references to grander spectacles of times past, while I doubt George Osborne is on Kaler’s Christmas card list.
But generally, it’s all (in the Dame’s own term) “rubbish”. Which the audience laps-up, while waiting for the distribution of Wagon Wheels and Newcastle Brown to a few fortunates (nowadays handed-out with Health & Safety awareness). Failure to catch the one Wagon Wheel which is thrown to a volunteer threatens spectacular humiliation.
That, though, is normally confined to the stage. The pattern, if not the story, is so familiar to regulars (i.e. 90% of the audience) that humour moves on to the lives of the cast. This year’s stand-in villain is advised he’s taking it all too seriously. Anyone missing a year faces retribution upon return. They seem to love it. As do the audience, who know they will never be treated disrespectfully by York’s Dame-in-Residence.
It’s possible to say it’s too long, that even anarchy can ramble, that the show could benefit from more external input, be less variety entertainment separating the Dame’s star turns. But stars come with Christmas. And York knows what it wants, being only able to pity the rest of a world that doesn’t know what it’s missing.
Hattie Hood: Berwick Kaler.
Geoffrey Hood: Martin Barrass.
Marian: Suzy Cooper.
Robin Hood: Vincent Gray.
Ice Blondel: Ad Powell.
Lady Hamalot/Broomhilda: Siân Howard.
Sheriff Hutton: Jonathan Race.
Connie Fir: Lauren Newton.
Little John: Jamie Sutton.
Teresa Green: Danielle Mullan.
Will Scarlet/King Richard: Al Braatz.
Florrie Bunda: Alix Ross.
Alan-a-Dale: Harry Hughes.
Tom: Aaron Blanchard/Oscar Rogers.
Cherry: Madeleine Wood/ Olivia Hunt.
Young People: Corin Anderson, Rory Vince, Ruby Ewing, Scarlett Rowley, Bea Kirkham, Rebecca Patterson/Charlie Wright, Oliver Fox, Laura Bailey, Lottie Walker, Jessica Nockels, Isabelle Martin.
Pensioners: Mary Robinson, Pat Norton.
Directors: Berwick Kaler, Damian Crudden.
Designers: Phil Daniels, Charles Cusick Smith.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Music Arranger/Associate Musical director: Christopher Madin.
Music Director: Mike Turnbull.
Film: Chris Spence.
Choreographer: Brendan Matthew.
Fight director: Liam Evans-Ford.