REVIEW: Robin Hood, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until January 8.
Magic tricks, acrobats, all the usual routines, spectacular 3D effects, comedy mayhem and'¦ errr'¦ a massive Tyrannosaurus rex, Robin Hood is the panto that's got the lot.
But best of all, it’s got Shane Richie, a burst of impromptu, unpredictable energy who takes the whole thing by the scruff of the neck and pumps several million volts through it.
Managing to combine effortlessly the parts of both hero and comic, Richie is the panto’s driving force. Whether things are going right or wrong, he keeps the laughs coming, mixing off-the-cuff Carry-On humour with plenty of digs at Pompey.
His is a terrific panto performance, hugely reminiscent of Brian Conley at his best – and there’s no higher tribute.
Adding to the fun for soap star fans is the fact that Alfie gets his Kat, Richie teaming up with his EastEnders co-star Jessie Wallace as Maid Marion to great comic effect.
It would be nice to see Ashleigh Gray given more to do as the good fairy, but then again, this is the busiest of busy pantos, zinging along merrily – despite a storyline which seems slow to get going amid all the mayhem.
Illusionist Phil Hitchcock throws in plenty of “Did I really see that moments?” as the magical Merlin, and Pete Gallagher hams it up nicely as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Jeffrey Holland, last seen at Mayflower Theatre in Jack and the Beanstalk in 2012, confirms himself once again as one of our very best dames as Nurse Nancy.
But maybe, just maybe, the night’s enduring image will be a wonderful scene which combines a cage, a gorilla looking for a mate, a David Attenborough impersonation and a trapped medieval priest. Peter Piper as Friar Tuck offers comedy gold. Yep, it’s the night’s highlight.
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