The waves of excitement were palpable as we took our seats to watch this year’s Robin Hood.
It’s been too long since we all got together to enjoy that essential festive tradition the pantomime – and not not just any pantomime – but the Oxford Playhouse pantomime -the perfect way to sprinkle a little Christmas joy.
As if that wasn’t incentive enough, Robin Hood is also Steve Marmion‘s last pantomime for Oxford Playhouse, having directed the annual celebration for the past six years. And boy did he deliver.
It was heaven to be surrounded by little people with their eyes lit up in wonder, shouting at the horrible Sheriff of Nottingham
Robin Hood was absolutely joyous from start to finish, less gimmicky perhaps, and as a result more heartfelt and funny. It’s as if Steve wanted to pare it back to the essence of pantomime itself fit for the 21st century.
And it was heaven to be surrounded by little people with their eyes lit up in wonder shouting at the horrible Sheriff of Nottingham (played by Gareth David-Lloyd who rather stole the show), batting away the snow (foam), reaching for the airborne sweets, screeching at the water pistols, as they realised they could boo and howl with total abandon, surrounded by family and friends. What could be better?
So we roared, sniggered and snorted, chuckled and shouted, sang and danced through Robin Hood. We were spellbound at points, especially during Marian and Robin’s duet, performed so ably by Naomi Alade and Steffan Lloyd-Evans), and on our feet the next.
Of course this was largely due to the brilliant cast, crew and the adaption itself. So while Robin Hood and his merry band were wreaking havoc on The Sheriff of Nottingham’s soldiers by ambushing and tickling them half to death, Friar Tuck, (or he is Freya Tuck?) takes on a lot of the terrible but obligatory gags, singing, hilarious frocks, sweet throwing and general crowd-rousing.
Robin (Steffan Lloyd-Evans) is less macho than usual, and doubts his own abilities, so Marian is not only his love match but helping to run the show and mentor their leader. It’s a team effort, helped no end by the Team Bad Bods youngsters.
But the real showstoppers are the Sheriff and his wily sidekick Betty The Crow (Dev Joshi) who are not only hilarious but have perfect comic timing.
Their 12 days of Christmas cooking fest is genius, although how they’ll keep that going until Sunday January 9 is anyone’s guess, the Sheriff’s Boris impression is spot on, his Tiger King sketch had us in hysterics and the Chaz and Dave ‘rabbit’ skit was instantly recognisable.
An absolute triumph from the Oxford Playhouse and a fitting farewell for Steve Marmion. Robin Hood is just what the doctor ordered to see out 2021 with a bang.
Robin Hood runs at Oxford Playhouse until January 9. https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/events/robin-hood-panto