We recently attended the opening night of Robin Hood the pantomime performed by Cardiff Players in the YMCA and it was everything and more that you would expect from a community pantomime!
The thing with any pantomime, specifically this one, is that the more you personally get involved and accept it for what it is the more you will enjoy the show. When the show opened I was taken back by the over-the-top-ness of the show but as time passed and I gave myself over to its crazy nature I actually had a really enjoyable evening filled with constant laughs and so much audience participation. Robin Hood was classic community theatre at its finest with every person having lines to say/ something to do in the show which is obviously great to watch and, I imagine, even better to be a part of. It’s fantastic to see ever person being used because fundamentally theatre is all about people having something to do and feeling involved which Cardiff Players did excellently.
It was very clear that this was the opening night of this production as a there was a constant feeling of opening night nerves. We did have some points where actors had forgotten lines and had to be cued by the backstage team who were off-stage. Although this is not usually what you expect in production, it was great to see the other actors on stage helping each other and working through it. Also due to the nature of pantomime, this is more expectable just because of the fun nature of the show. I believe on any other night this would not have happened as it was clear the actor had worked really hard and knew his lines but it was a shame this happened. Also, there was a hook placed on the side of the stage where a hat was supposed to be hung except this didn’t happen and the hat fell to the ground. This again was a shame but the everyone worked through it really well and played it off really well which showed that everyone had a massive sense of professionalism and were experienced performers.
This show followed the classic pantomime traits and brought all the fun/campiness of this style of performance. It had tremendous amounts of audience participation which was incredibly fun. We had the classic “He’s behind you” and “Oh yes he is” call-outs from the audience but at times it was difficult to gauge what the actors expected the audience to shout out. As an audience member, there were certain points where I was unsure of what the correct thing to shout out for the call outs. Also, there was a very embarrassing moment where I thought the actors were asking the audience to get involved with a joke so I shouted out the punch line but this was not supposed to be an audience involvement section. This meant I trampled on the actors next line but if I got confused then I believe many other audience members will also get confused. It must be made more clear by the actors when and where audience participation is desired otherwise more awkward moments like this one will occur. But the awkwardness of this was not all the actors fault as the audience also share some of the blame. Obviously, pantomimes are designed for children however there was not a single child in the audience which obviously clashed with the nature of the show. Despite this, I did hear my favourite ever call-our from any show I have ever seen when the audience was asked: “Where did Maid Marion go?” And someone in the audience replied “Stage right I think” which had the entire audience rolling in laughter from the rest of the scene.
One of the highlight in this show was the role of Simon Scowl (which is a very clever and hilarious name for a pantomime villain which the writer should be proud of) /The Sheriff Of Nottingham played by William John Richardson who was just the perfect pantomime villain. He was evil and grumpy in that over-the-top way and was almost a caricature of every villain ever which was very enjoyable to watch. He performed excellently and managed to banter with the audience in a smooth and excellent way. This role included a hilarious rendition of “bad guy” by Billie Eilish which was both a really clever choice of song (due to this character being the “bad guy”) but also hilariously funny which had the audience in fits of laughter throughout.
The other highlight in this show was Nurse Norma Snockers (again incredible name of this character) who was played by Jordan Forse. This was the equivalent of the dame in classic pantomime as this a character in drag. Jordan delivered such a camp and over-the-top performance which fitted perfectly with the nature of the show. He is an extremely talented performer who had the audience in laughter whenever he was in the stage. I actually spent the majority of the show looking forward to the next time he was on stage as he was that excellent and hilarious! At the end of the show, Jordan actually sang and he had an incredible voice and wish there was more of opportunity for him to showcase this talent. What was brilliant about this character is that every time he graced the stage the beginning of the song “Girls just wanna have fun” was played which fitted this character to a tee.
The role of Peter Pan was played Elinor Howe which obviously honoured the pantomime tradition of Peter Pan being played by a female performer. Elinor is clearly an extremely talented dancer and one pure showcase of this was during a scene in which where Maid Marion was singing “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars and Elinor performed a stunning ballet routine as a shadow which was beautiful to watch. This was excellently performed but also was a credit to the technical team who were able to execute the shadow casting excellently. The show opened with rhyming introduction spoken by the fairy LouLou (played by Catrin Maid Griffiths) who managed to perfectly encapsulate the fantastic and mythical nature of the role. However, she does have to be cautious about the pace of her speeches as sometimes jokes were given enough time for the audience to appreciate what was being said. Apart from this minor issue, Catrin was excellent in this role. What I was extremely surprised by in this show was the role of Friar Tuck who was played by Chris England. During a scene, Chris walked out holding a violin and at first, I was expecting him to do the ridiculous mining that so many productions are doing at the moment. But to my surprise, he actually played the violin live which was incredible to see someone showcasing a skill that is rarely seen. This is a unique moment that very few shows actually utilise which makes this show actually stand out from the others I have seen.
Overall, this was a classic community pantomime that allowed everyone to feel involved and showcased many unique skills that were not just classic performance-based ones. It was hilariously funny and fabulously fun which is perfect for an evening entertaining young children. I would rate this performance 3 stars and would encourage parents to take the young children to see this show as it is entertaining for all ages!