a warming home-made parsnip soup from the Café Bar, I watch the
crowd arrive. For all their paper hats, their popcorn and their
massive bags of sweeties, they're a discerning crowd. They expect to
laugh and boo, of course; they'll want a dame and a baddie, but this
X-factor generation will also demand production values as high as any
concert or West End musical.
Wolsey has found the perfect recipe to keep them happy in its Rock
and Roll pantos, of which this is, unbelievably, the eleventh
incarnation. All the ingredients are carefully selected: a
super-talented team of actor musicians, a score of toe-tapping
numbers, more or less tailored to the plot, and audience involvement
[which means getting wet, or picked on, or both – Brian in A3 an
excellent stooge when I saw the show].
Nottingham castle ramparts are bristling with brass, drum-kit and
guitars, as Blondel the troubadour bounces on to get the action
started – Hippy Hippy Shake an ideal choice for an opening number.
Other musical highlights were Goldfinger, and Natural Woman,
featuring a seven-piece band and two backing singers.
favourites in the cast list – Shirley Darroch a demure Maid Marian,
really looking as if she was enjoying every minute of the silliness.
Anthony Hunt the exquisitely evil Sherriff of Nottingham, with
excellent work from his two henchmen "moronic mingers"
Steve Simmonds and Tim Jackson, whose Numbskull was a winner with the
audience. Robin Hood – an athletic Alex Tomkins – sang his
numbers with some style, and like everyone else, managed to keep just
a little bit in character as he belted out The Clash's I Fought The
Kenning makes a most welcome return as the Dame – Nellie Nightnurse
with her trolleyful of amusing ailments. Towering over everyone else
in the cast, he has a fresh, original take on this age-old tradition,
his character caught between the bovver boots and the comedy hair. As
regulars will know, all the actors take their turn in the backing
band – Will moved from trombone to guitar to keyboard. His charges
– Britney and Whitney the Babes [Essex girls in all but name] -
were nicely done by Sioned Saunders and Sophie Byrne [saxophonists
to see another chorus of soft toys – this time including a cuddly
something for everyone in Peter Rowe's panto, directed by Rob Salmon
– tinies squealing with delight at the simplest slapstick, a
clever, alliterative script, with nudge-nudge naughtiness for the
grown-ups, and, for us oldies, nostalgic references to Bernie the
Bolt and Dick James's unforgettable theme tune, thoughtfully reprised
Dame Nellie put it – "bad gags, mad frocks and relentless
upstaging" – who could ask for more for Christmas ?