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It’s panto season once again and this year the star of the show is Shane Richie who leads a cast of relative unknowns in an unconventional version of Robin Hood as the story comes to MK Theatre for the first time.
Last year’s sellout Cinderella was a tough act to follow but Richie and his merry men have risen to the challenge with an action packed panto which features sword fights, marauding monsters, acrobatics and magic. There’s even a 3D film which takes the audience in a pretty scary journey underground in Sherwood Forest to encounter spiders, giant insects, fireballs and wolves which seemingly fly into your face. I’ve never heard as many screams of terror in a pantomime and a few of the younger kids were covering their eyes!
There’s all the usual panto fun but this production freshens things up with no pantomime dames (just a bit of cross dressing disguises) and some original songs. Shane Richie has the audience in the palm of his hand with a confident performance and some great one liners in the script – including a few very risqué jokes for the mums and dads. He’s not afraid to make the odd cheeky reference to Albert Square and seems to genuinely love performing in panto.
The guest stars are used to full advantage with magician Phil Hitchcock as Merlin doing some impressive illusions – although it’s not clear how making doves appear was going to help Robin Hood defeat the Sherrif of Nottingham. There is also an impressive slapstick gymnastics display from The Acromaniacs as The Merry Men which is shoehorned into the plot.
Little John (Jamie Kenna), Will Scarlett (Michael Quinn), Maid Marian (Zoe George) and the ‘Spirit of the Forest’ (Gina Murray) deliver solid performances but allow Robin and Friar Tuck (played by comedian and panto veteran Peter Piper) to steal the show. The banter and chemistry between the pair is great fun and their occasional corpsing feels very genuine. There is also a wonderfully evil and camp performance from Pete Gallagher as the Sheriff of Nottingham with a booming Brian Blessed-like voice and plenty of wicked beard stroking.
There’s also an incredible surprise just before the interval which is one of the most impressive pieces of animatronics I’ve seen at the theatre and will make your kids eyes pop out in amazement. This is a magical pantomime which has invested the budget in the show itself rather than an endless list of ‘names’
This year’s panto ‘Robin Hood’ at Milton Keynes Theatre is showing until Sunday 13th January 2019. Tickets can be purchased at www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee) or by calling their Box Office on 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee).
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