Maid Marian is a hit in Worcester’s Robin Hood panto

Maid Marian and the Merry Men/Swan Theatre, Worcester

Review by John Phillpott

WRITER Chris Jaeger sends his silver-tipped arrow winging through the boughs of the greenwood and creates a monster of a show that has us all a-quiver from start to finish.

In this Year of the Woman he’s turned the whole mythology on its head to suggest that not only was the wicked sheriff of Nottingham female, but that the legendary Robin Hood was actually a woodland wimp who preferred strumming a guitar rather than twanging a longbow.

Oh yes, there are no Norman soldiers left gibbering in their jerkins when Tom Riddell’s Robin sashays into the clearing. He’s about as much use as a chocolate bowstring, none of which matters that much, because it’s Maid Marian who wears the codpiece in this neck of the woods.

Genevieve Lowe as the lady in question demolishes once and for all the age-old notion of delicate damsels trembling with expectation on the battlements, waiting for true loves to start scrambling up the ivy.

And if your preconceptions are already being stretched further than several feet of finest yew wood, then take a second look at Jamie Kwasnik’s Friar Tuck, a slim figure of a man who definitely needs to put away – on a daily basis, preferably – an entire roast oxen and a gallon of mead under his habit. Yes, bang-twang-thwack goes another cliché, courtesy of Jaeger’s lightening bolts.

Liz Grand didn’t win the ‘best baddie’ showbiz accolade for no reason and, as ever, the booing comes thick and fast, jeers falling on this particular sheriff thicker than the deadly showers at Agincourt.

A vision of black darker than the dungeons of Nottingham Castle, she lurches about like an out-of-control siege tower, pouring molten metal and boiling oil on all who challenge her.

Meanwhile, Mystic Mary (Heidi Gowthorpe) enchants, Willy Wally (Charlie Ryan) excels as a blithering idiot, and Wilf Williams provides buckets of pitch-darkness as Guy of Gisbourne.

Nevertheless, the star of stars is most definitely John-Robert Partridge as Dame Ginny, who gets most of the laughs by a good arrow’s length. Ben Humphrey was always going to be a hard act to follow, but this guy’s very much his own man… or should that be woman?

With Helen Leek’s fabulous choreography, plus Rick Godsall’s skilled band of musicians, this is one show that should not be missed. Make no mistake, the Christmas season has now well and truly started… and it’s begun right here in the Worcestershire Wildwood.

Maid Marian and the Merry Men runs until Sunday, January 6.

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