CUADC/Footlights Pantomime 2015: Robin Hood

Wed 25th November – Sat 5th December 2015

reviews

Clare Cavenagh

at 23:45 on 25th Nov 2015

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Pantomimes are really stupid. They're made of stock characters, fourth-wall breaking and puns that melt your face. Robin Hood was fantastically full to the brim with all of these. The audience was taken on a thrilling, occasionally cringeworthy romp through the medieval (although perhaps not that much) Sherwood Forest in the company of Robin Hood and his merry men.

The performances which made up Robin Hood were all so blisteringly enthusiastic that it is difficult to single out any in particular. Eleanor Colville was excellent as the swashbuckling and bi-curious Robin, and Orlando Gibbs was gleeful and camp as the Sheriff of Nottingham - it was a singular pleasure to boo him. Tim Atkin was right on the line between charming and disgusting as Freya Tuck (Mrs F. Tuck. You'll get there), the potentially cheap cross-dressing laughs saved by a great performance, and a couple of sneaky jokes. There were also a few scene-stealing performances in the ensemble cast. Sasha Brooks was unexpectedly brilliant as the mute milkmaid (it's always the quiet ones you have to watch), and Sam Knights as Angry Bill and also a Tree and also a few other things had a trick of making his eyes almost perfectly circular which was hilarious.

The band did an excellent job playing a great score. The standout song was probably the pre-interval 'Vanilla' - it was catchy and dramatic and had everybody onstage and dancing. The technical aspects of the show were brilliant too, and the few first-night mishaps so well-handled by the cast that I actually think they should consider leaving them in. Equally good were onstage responses to rather enthusiastic audience interventions. The sets were much, much fancier that usual too, so much so that the first dramatic change of scene elicited impressed whistles and even scattered applause from the audience.

The writers and composers of Robin Hood have done a splendid job jamming astonishing and satisfyingly obtuse puns into every line of the script, creating an excellent score with just enough awkward stretching of syllables, and passing on a subversive political message. This pantomime wasn't afraid to gleefully poke all the fun in the world at global economic problems, religion, gender and sexuality issues, Cambridge itself, the format of pantomime, and pretty much everything else you can imagine.

If you go to see this show, you may find your previous bourgeois assumptions about how society ought to be run shaken to their very core. Or you might just have a really great night out, with great music, slick design, excellent jokes and wonderful performances. Don't miss it.

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Andrew McMahon

at 20:23 on 27th Nov 2015

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Expectations were high as I took my seat at the CUADC/Footlights Pantomime. The lights dimmed and from the opening number the cast had the audience laughing.

The sets for the show were incredible. From the huge castle of the Sheriff to the mill with working sails, they were impressive and, apart from one slightly longer transition, every changeover was done efficiently- keeping up the pace of the show. Props were effectively used (often adding additional visual puns) and the cast carried on exteremly well when a couple didn't work as intended.

The show made many political and popular cuture references; from Oliver Twist to Harry Potter, nothing escaped the satirical eye of Eleanor Colville and Raphael Wakefield (the writers). The Super Mario Bros. references from the moment Marian donned her red cap were of particularly high quality- with a small scetch in the middle of the play which had the audience laughing in their seats.

Robin Hood also featured live music. This was fantastically played; it added to the ambiance in moodier scenes and added to the enjoyment of the pantomime. There were a couple of moments when cast and music were slightly out of time, but these were quickly recovered. The singing in the show was also of a high standard with some of the duets harmonised beautifully.

One of the most surprising and impressive parts of the performance was the choreography and the way the cast interacted with the stage. The first song was an excellant example of this with people coming out of trapdoors and leaning through windows of the sets. This trend continued throughout the show with a particularly well choreographed dance routine by the merry men. All styles were used; one moment there was slow, romantic dance and the next the stage was awash with cheerleaders performing a high-energy routine. The actors were well in time with each other and seemed to be enjoying themselves almost as much as the audience was enjoying it.

Mention must go to Orlando Gibbs, the Sheriff, who controlled the stage every time that he set foot upon it; the Merry Men (Jack Parham, Henry Wilkinson and Colin Rothwell) who provided continual amusement (even when they hadn't said anything yet) and Ashleigh Weir who played Marian who sang well and worked well with the other cast members.

In conclusion, this was a fantastic and funny production with all the key elements of a pantomime. With a few minor things ironed out, future performances could be worthy of five star reviews.

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