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Corn Exchange - Robinson Crusoe

6th December 2000 to 6th January 2001.

Review from the NWN:

Topically tropical

ROBINSON CRUSOE, at the Corn Exchange, until January 6

With the strains of the 1970s television theme ringing in our cars, my two guests - Rachel Kempe, aged 12, and brother John, aged 9 - and I set sail with Robinson Crusoe last Saturday evening.

One does not normally associate an opera company with pantomime, but then Opera della Luna is no ordinary company, as this year's offering at the Corn Exchange proved.

According to the fun-packed programme, 0ffenbach's 'Robinson Crusoe' was the company's first production, six years ago. No doubt that version was more 'Caruso' than 'Crusoe' but the music was an outstanding feature here, too, mixing attractive original songs with well-known tunes. Incorporating the 'Onedin line' theme as the cast were about to put to sea was a neat touch as was the audience participation number which borrowed the topical catchphrase "Wassup?". The children joined in enthusiastically.

Rachel and John's favourite character (and mine too) was John Barr's Mrs Crusoe. We particularly like the way (s)he pretended to be a man by donning a false beard to get on board the ship.

There were laughs aplenty, though it was sometimes hard to tell where the script ended and the ad-libs began.

Dee Tails made a strong impression as Friday, if perhaps a little streetwise for an island native. Pleasingly, in these politically correct times, he was no slave to Robinson, but an equal partner in the battle against the Witchdoctor, played by versatile Jimmy Johnston (doubling as Captain Quarterpoop). Mark Trotman was a likeable Silly Billy and John Pennington extracted plenty of hisses as the nasty Will Atkins.

The set was impressive, especially the shipwreck at the end of act one. The first of several loud bangs made John jump. Crusoe (David Reid) was finally reunited with pretty Polly Perkins (Kirsty Hoiles) but Rachel thought it sad that Friday did not end up with a girlfriend of his own. The professional cast were supplemented by a team of eight talented local children, not to mention a talking parrot and the aptly-named Isadora, a dancing goat. Musical director Simon Gray led a hard-working band.

'Robinson Crusoe' is a sure-fire winner for all the family. Unlike the show hosted by another famous Robinson, there is no 'Weakest Link' here.