Robin Hood

Date 14th January 2023
Society Compton Little Theatre
Venue Compton Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Alison Lawrence
Written By Frazer Woodhams and Fred Pollard

Report

Author: Pauline Surrey

This was a jolly and lively retelling of the old ever-popular tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. The panto was written by Frazer Woodhams and Fred Pollard, who played Nanny Fanny and Prince John respectively, and I have to say their jokes were very funny – oh yes they were! I attended with two young co-reviewers, who appreciated not only all the funny bits, and the beautiful costumes, and the fun songs and dances, but also the little paper bags of sweets (non-rustling, hooray!) on sale before the show, and the generous number of chocolate coins flung about all 4 sections of the hall in the second half. The highlight for the 3-year-old was the Sheriff being whacked with the giant hammer, or was it an axe. The six-year-old, being of a more romantic nature, adored Robin Hood, and loved the wedding finale! I only have one little criticism, in that I think it was a trifle long for small people, especially the first half.

There is nothing quite like panto in a village hall, and Compton’s Hall is a fine example with a separate bar area, and some raised seating at the back. And of course a rear entrance, put to good use, as performers can process through to the stage and be right among the audience.

Lighting was used very effectively throughout. Sound was good, although for some of the quieter performers, eg the children, the music could have been better balanced, as their voices and thus the amusing lyrics could sometimes not be properly heard.

Costumes were excellent, with especially fine headgear, I thought, for example Alan a Dale and the Sheriff’s mediaeval chaperon hats, Robin and Will Scarlett’s jaunty caps. The Prince’s striking blue sparkly tights stay in my mind, as does Will Scarlett’s splendidly scarlet outfit. The heralds looked fine too, as did the villagers, the archers, indeed everyone – a great effort from the costume department. But of course, the amazing creations sported by Nanny Fanny, and they were many, each one more spectacular than the last, were a triumph! That includes the hair and makeup – however did she manage to get those eyelashes on? Friar Tuck deserves a mention of course, as Compton’s Friar Tuck went over the odds to get into role, in that he had his hair especially cut for the show in order to raise money for a very fine charity. He surprised and delighted the customers, including myself, in a local Sainsburys, the day before I saw the show. Perusing the aisles with his shopping trolley, this was a sight one doesn’t usually see!

Compton Little Theatre is very lucky to have a great set painter in Pat Williams, and these were delightful, and included a great village set, which included a beautiful, curved street of half-timbered houses, with an inn called the Squeaky Sackbut. The forest set was very effective too, with rocks to hide behind and a trapdoor to hide things in. The Sheriff’s office in, presumably, Nottingham Castle, was also great, with various colourful wall hangings, and later in the Hall, colourful banners. The County May Fayre set was also super. These things are so important, as well as the costumes and makeup, to create that world of magic for the young audience. Props, of course, were many, including the aforementioned giant hammer (or axe?), some interesting baskets of wares that the young peddlers carried, some amazing extending trumpets for the heralds, a set of stocks, protest banners against the Wax Tax and the Axe Tax, and archery target, and many many more.

The production started with the villagers gathering to grumble about the Sheriff’s constant raising of taxes, and the fact that he was finding ever more preposterous taxes to implement. Young peddlers appeared, offering their various wares, and singing a cleverly adapted song as they did so, based on ‘These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things’, only in their version ‘my’ became ‘your’. They received much well-deserved applause. We met Maid Marion and her astonishing Nanny Fanny.  Friar Tuck, we soon found out, liked a drink, as he rather cleverly tumbled off a bench outside the pub.

The Sheriff was exceedingly well played by Kevin Drury. He made a marvellously threatening villain, though with his clumsy hopeless henchmen, Hammer and Tongs (Helen Bracher and Mandy Scully) one did rather wonder whether he’d be able to carry out all his dastardly threats! He had designs on Maid Marion (Isabel Moore), both in terms of her person and her fortune, and aimed to make her his bride.  She seemed feisty enough though, and one felt she knew Robin Hood would save the day.

The outlaws were an endearing bunch with Zack Taylor (Robin Hood) ably leading his Merry Men: Alan a Dale (Freddie Cox), Friar Tuck (Stephen Pugh), Will Scarlett (Luke Bevan), Much (Henry Moore) and Little John (Sean Lyttle), as they schemed first to rob the Sheriff of the taxes his men had collected, and later to rescue Maid Marion from the clutches of the Sheriff, and get him removed from post.

The desperate Nanny Fanny, (desperate in more ways than one!) joined up with the outlaws as they tried to rescue Maid Marion, and Little John promptly fell for her, which was of course reciprocated. One almost felt sorry for the poor fellow in the audience who’d been singled out at the start to be her ‘Manny’.  ‘Where’s my Manny?’ ‘I’m right here, Fanny!’ He performed his part to perfection throughout. Frazer Woodhams delighted everyone with his performance as Fanny, he made a superb Dame, and we especially enjoyed his duet with the great Little John of ‘Islands in the Stream’.

There were all kinds of good songs in this panto. I was able to note Robin and Little John’s duet of ‘You’re Amazing, I’d Do Anything For You’, which I think was their dreaming of Maid Marion and Nanny Fanny. ‘We’re Men In Tights’ was a great song by the outlaws and there were many others, often accompanied by well-choreographed dances. The jokes were good too, and just as importantly, well delivered with good comic timing.

The appearance of Prince John (Fred Pollard) was a delight, a great performance from him, he also had a good song and of course he finally sacked the Sheriff.

We had some community singing with ‘I Am The Music Man’, which was cleverly done with 4 performers on 4 different instruments from 4 corners of the hall.

All in all, this was a jolly afternoon’s Compton treat, well directed by Alison Lawrence, and well performed by all with great gusto. Well done, team!