by Ben Crocker music by Sarah Travis.
The Theatre 2 Spring Street OX7 5NL To 10 January 2016.
10.15am 20, 24-27 Nov, 1-3, 8, 9, 15 Dec, 6 Jan.
11am 29 Nov, 8, 13, 20, 27 Dec, 4, 10 Jan.
1.45pm 19, 20, 24-27 Nov, 1-4, 8, 9, 15 Dec, 5, 6 Jan.
2pm 21, 28 Nov, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 21-24 28-31 Dec, 2, 9 Jan.
4pm 29 Nov, 6, 11, 13, 16, 20, 26, 27 Dec, 3, 7, 8, 10 Jan.
6pm 21, 28 Nov, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 21-24, 28-31 Dec, 2, 5, 9 Jan.
7.30pm 19 Nov, 4, 11, 16, 26 Dec, 7, 8 Jan.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 01608 642350.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 November.
A triumph of lightness, wit and theatrical resourcefulness.
“There is nothing like a dame,” sang the marines of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, deprived of female company. There are certainly few like Connie Clatterbotttom, Chipping Norton’s panto Dame; in Andrew Pepper’s performance, like a beanstalk awaiting its Jack. Connie’s a teacher whose bedtime stripper act is wholesomely hilarious.
Her attempt to recover the babes (or primary-age children) in Sherwood Forest requires the aid of Robin Hood. The black-hearted Sheriff of Nottingham plans their murder so he can inherit their wealth.
Andrew Piper’s Sherriff is from the David Leonard school of villainy, incarnated by Leonard in decades of Berwick Kaler’s York pantos. Glossily silken tones express smiling self-congratulation and an appetite for audience hostility. Russell Craig’s designs work wonders on a small stage with limited technical flexibility, providing dark settings for the castle where the Sheriff holds his prisoners.
Scott Ellis Robin has a look of the young George Clooney. He certainly has confidence in excess, thereby imperilling Marion and himself. Madeleine Leslay’s damsel supposedly in distress ends-up rescuing Robin with some handy knee-work, aided by Ben Eagle’s jovial Friar and Little John’s daughter Little Joan. A dab hand with a staff, Rosanna Lambe’s Joan outfights any man.
While these feisty females keep Robin safe to make his final demand that the Sheriff will henceforth take tax from the rich not tax credits from the poor, the usual panto ingredients crop-up without choking the story.
He’s behind you, oh yes he is, with Sarah Travis’s enjoyable songs (sung by variably powerful voices, though Pepper’s Dame proves something of adiva), slapstick and an audience action song to mark enlistment as outlaws following a group assault with rocks and boulder on the Sheriff’s security system (one dozy guard and a thick door)
These traditional panto tropes all have a natural narrative context, Ben Crocker’s script propelling the story ever-forward, including an Owl seen on high and two scaredy-cat rabbits who repeatedly emerge for a chat. Abigail Anderson is a director who instils a sense of fun and involvement in productions such as this, creating immense energy alongside detail in each moment.
Robin Hood: Scott Ellis.
Maid Marion: Madeleine Leslay.
Connie Clatterbottom: Andrew Pepper.
Friar Tuck: Ben Eagle.
Little Joan: Rosanna Lambe.
Alan-a-Dale: Sam O’Hanlon.
Sheriff of Nottingham: Andrew Piper.
Dennis: Samuel Dutton.
Tilly: Maisie Frater/Maddie Good/Anna Clutterbuck.
Tommy: Charlie Weaver/Loxie Chiles/Hannah Burman.
Outlaws: Scarlett Wilson, Leila Osbourne-Millar/Izzy Casson, Victoria Kennedy/Grace Haldin-Catt, Isabella Rose-Leahy.
Director: Abigail Anderson.
Designer: Russell Craig.
Lighting: Christopher Nairne.
Musical Director: Sarah Travis.
Choreographer: Sally Brooks.
Costume: Emily Stuart.
Fight director: Philip d’Orléans.