Corn Exchange - Robin Hood
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Corn Exchange - Robin Hood

2nd December 2011 to 2nd January 2012.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Beg, steal, or borrow a child

Just get down to the Corn Exchange and join the fun with Robin and his merry band

Robin Hood, at the Corn Exchange, Newbury, until January 2

It's that time of year again (Ooooh yes, it is) for wicked villains to chase innocent princesses to the delight of children aged five to 55.

Indeed, Christmas, for yours truly, doesn't start before the first panto.

We all know how it's going to end and we all know the gags along the way, but we still want a few surprises arid the Hiss and Boo production of Robin Hood, at the Corn Exchange until January 2, certainly delivers.

Pantos are nothing if not magical, and it doesn't get more so than with a cameo appearance by the greatest wizard of them all: Gandalf (sorry Merlin).

The company lost one of its stars this year. Adam Brown - one half of Plested and Brown - is in New Zealand filming the forthcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, but Hiss and Boo pulled off a coup, getting Brown to not only record a tête-à-tête with Claire Plested - alone worth the price of the ticket - but also to rope in fellow Middle-earth adventurer, Sir Ian McKellen.

On opening night, with McKellen's 'appearance' a well-kept secret, the audience's excitement was palpable at hearing that unmistakable voice speak the most famous of Tolkien lines: "Thou shall not pass!" (Ominously reminding me of my maths exams.)

With the departure of Brown, a heavy load of comedy expectation weighs on Plested in the role of Sharon-A-Dale, the rapper with a south London twang.

But buckle? Not for a moment.

Her load is admittedly lightened considerably by Matthew Grace as the lovable and forgetful - but never forgettable - Billy Bumpkin, who has, he claims, been promised a new outfit for next year. We'll see, Billy, we'll see.

The baritone bearded lady, Ian Mowat, in the role of Lady Shania Tuck, gets all the best comedy bits and he - sorry, she - is surprisingly athletic for such a... voluptuous gal.

Individually, the rest of the cast all shone, but what lifts this production above the ordinary is the sheer amount of energy: dancing, cart wheeling, singing and swaying, the audience were gasping in sympathy.

My advice? If you don't have a child, borrow one. It's too much fun to miss.

EDDIE VAN DER WALT

There are reviews in The Stage ("the production team have excelled themselves"), The British Theatre Guide ("hugely enjoyable family entertainment... the perfect start to the festive season") and the Reading Chronicle ("they’ll be Robin an’ rollin’ from Newbury to Thatcham and beyond this Christmas thanks to the pantomime at the Corn Exchange").