Chipping Norton Theatre has pulled out all the stops to create a cracker of a show this year. Song and dance, fabulous costumes, stick and sword fights, a giant inflatable ball and a shower of chocolate coins are all part of the fun.
Virile Robin Hood (Scott Ellis) has an exciting life living in Sherwood Forest (beautifully evoked by designer Russell Craig and composer and musical director Sarah Travis). Although his lively companions are loyal supporters and Robin fans: mellifluous musician Alan-a-Dale (Sam O'Hanlon), Little Joan (excellent Rosanne Lambe) and a couple of singing rabbits, the idyll is not enough.
Like many heroes – even in Panto – Robin's persona is flawed. He is, as Friar Tuck (imposing Ben Eagle) tells him, 'too cocky'.
Despite the love and wise words of caution from Maid Marion (diaphanous Madeleine Leslay), Robin carries out ever more daring raids on the loaded. He may redistribute it appropriately but he's addicted to risk.
When posh black-hearted Sheriff of Nottingham (Andrew Piper) and his energetic side-kick Dennis (Samuel Dutton) set a trap, Robin's cockiness drops him straight in it. He ends up manacled in a windowless cell.
Meanwhile a fresh income source presents itself: the Sheriff's deceased brother's sassy children Tillly (Anna Clutterbuck) and Tommy (Hannah Burman). They are their father's sole heirs. Why should Babes in the Wood spring to mind?
They find themselves in their wicked uncle's clutches, but not so fast! Their kindly carer is none other than Maid Marion's dazzling, devoted spinster nurse Connie Clatterbottom (versatile Andrew Pepper).
Clatterbottom's gusto as a revolving target for a shooting match, a fashion icon, a deft dancer with balletic grace, a tender teller of tales and a outstanding presence in every scene is not just a superb Pantomine Dame: she possesses a poignant inner life. Pepper evokes all her moods with verve and sensitivity, and fabulous dancing feet.
So many enjoyable moments were crammed into this child-centric panto that it passed in a wicked witch's flash. Now there's a character director Abigail Anderson could include next time: she's thought of pretty much everything else, and in the charming setting of Chipping Norton's mural bedecked theatre, we had a ball.