The festive juices can’t really start flowing in my view until you’ve taken in a pantomime — and one of the best around is always staged at Nottingham Playhouse.
This year’s offering is Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, bringing together those familiar Playhouse cast favourites and stalwarts, along with a few new faces — all under the guidance of venue legend Kenneth Alan Taylor.
The pantomime is always a jewel in the crown of the Playhouse and attracts a faithful, returning audience, well initiated in the annual traditions, as well as new blood who will no doubt be back for more.
More than 30 years ago I was one of those ‘newbies’ who, as an eight-year-old headed to the Playhouse with his classmates to see the very same Robin Hood show — it was my first but would definitely not prove to be my last.
And every time I leave the Playhouse Christmas thigh-slapping extravaganzaI leave with a smile on my face and an aching jaw from all the laughter — along with my kids who are also now panto-obsessed.
The 2018 version had exactly the same result and is all-the-more special being staged during the Playhouse’s 70th anniversary year having opened its doors in 1948.
It offers the chance to escape to a world of fantasy where good defeats evil in a story all told with a brilliantly colourful backdrop, over-the-top characters and action-packed dance sequences — as well as the traditional dancing rabbits.
The story revolves around the ultimate pantomime villain, the Sheriff of Nottingham, who hatches a wicked plan to get rid of his niece and nephew, the Babes in the Wood, and claim their fortune.
But it’s down to Robin Hood to save the day and stop the Sheriff with a little help from his Merry Men and Maid Marian.
Undoubtedly the glue that holds the whole Playhouse panto together is the brilliant John Elkington, returning this year as dynamic dame Nurse Nelly Noggins.
His penchant for ad lib brings the audience participation to life with plenty of slapstick for the kids and innuendo for the parents to enjoy.
Tim Frater is once again engaging in the lead role as Robin Hood as the story travels from Sherwood Forest to Nottingham Castle and even the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub.
Robin Kingsland as the Sheriff injects just the right amount of evil for a family audience and his chemistry with the ‘daft as a brush’ Arnold played by Darren Southworth works brilliantly.
Kinden Singh Uppal is back from last year as Alan-a-Dale, while Clarice Julianda is Tina Tuck. And completing the Merry Men are Adam Pettigrew, regular Rebecca Little and Kelly Edwards, who play the roles of Will Scarlett, Tilly The Tomboy and Milly Miller.
And who can forget the sweet voice of Kelly Agredo as Robin’s love interest, Maid Marian.
Fabulous dance routines, brilliant songs, superb music and glittering costumes complete a show that is a must for theatre lovers for the festive season.
Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood continues at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday January 19.
For show times and ticket information CLICK HERE to visit the theatre website.