Co-reviewed by Pascal Andriantahina (age 10)
Autumn leaves floating in the clear millstream at the Watermill Theatre are just one reason to make a trip over to Newbury to see this pantomime early in the season. Other reasons are the funniest villain you could imagine in Leander Deeny’s Sheriff of Nottingham, the gentlest of giant sidekicks – Daniel Copeland as Little John, and some outstanding dance moves by - you guessed it - Friar Tuck (Jorell Coiffic Kamall) and Robin herself (Georgia Bruce). The only negative from our ten year old co-critic’s point of view was that no sweets were flung into the audience. There were, however, many opportunities for audience participation with boos, hisses and the payment of taxes to fund the Sheriff’s lavish lifestyle.
The up-to-date yet Roald Dahl-esque feel to the whole show is only to be expected from children’s author and performance poet Laura Dockrill, who curated The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl exhibition at the South Bank Centre in 2016. Giggles from the audience ramped up through the night as we became more familiar with the characters and their quirks. The Sheriff’s character contained that most amusing combination of insecurity and pomposity. Indeed, as both Sheriff of Nottingham and Alan-a-Dale, Leander Deeny made the absolute most of the comic script and song lyrics, and also got big laughs for fun physical comedy.
We were treated to lots of very catchy songs across rock and pop genres by Hugo White, including an appropriate folk rock theme for the Merry Many (not the Few). The arrangements made great use of the multi-talented cast with Will Scarlet (Ned Rudkins-Stow) doing some impressive solos on the electric guitar. You’ll be amused to see which character plays the harmonica and the flute. Kazoos also feature!
This being a tale from a time of even huger inequality between rich and poor, there were plenty of moral dilemmas with modern parallels to ponder. We think it was perfect for age 8+ as well as being great fun for adults and not too scary for smaller children (a couple of bangs and flashes, some jolly swordplay, a forced marriage, and rescue from a hanging (well, it is Robin Hood!). It will make for great primary school theatre and family trips this Christmas. It could even provoke some discussions about friendship, forgiveness and how far we should go to help other people. We said au revoir to the millstream’s