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Robin Hood and his Merry Mam! York Theatre Royal

Published by: Sue Casson on 17th Dec 2012 | View all blogs by Sue Casson

Vince Gray as Robin Hood and Berwick Kaler as Mrs Hattie Hood in Robin Hood and his Merry Mam! - Photo by Kippa Matthews.jpg

The UK’s longest-running dame, national (and particularly Yorkshire) treasure Berwick Kaler takes to the stage for his 33rd annual pantomime in York, based on the tale of Robin of Sherwood, a bright Christmas show for all ages.  The humour runs through the action like a deep vein of gold, often bordering on the surreal and absurd, and managing to strike exactly the right note with the audience, many of whom have been coming to see Berwick since childhood and now bring their own kids to delight in this annual feast of fun, laughter and music. Without patronising anyone, onstage or off, this production manages to be accessible to all ages. One feels at home, constantly amused, bewildered and surprised at the antics unfolding on stage. (Warning: some of the jokes are as bad as you get at home!)


Sian Howard as Lady Hamalot, Vince Gray as Robin Hood and the chorus in Robin Hood and his Merry Mam - Photo by Kippa Matthews.j

York Theatre Royal’s Artistic Director, Damian Cruden co-directs, expertly combining the strengths and team spirit of the ‘old-hands’ with bright, new talent, such as Musical Director Mike Turnbull. The professional chorus of six take full part in the action, playing the minor parts as well as engaging in energetic song and dance routines, and there is also a sub-chorus of children, who perform their role with great integrity and commitment, generously guided by the rest of the cast. What an amazing introduction to theatre, to share the stage with Berwick Kaler! Indeed, one of the ‘bairns’ from a few years ago has now returned as an adult member of the chorus. The main cast work together with enormous generosity, good humour and focus. Martin Barrass is back, fresh from his West-end stint in ‘One Man Two Guvnors’, to play Berwick’s son, Geoffrey Hood, and the two form a perfectly synchronised double-act born of years of working in close harmony. Suzy Cooper is simply delightful as Maid Marian, a superb all-rounder, and Siān Howard’s witty vivacity shines through. Vincent Gray is a striking, engaging Robin Hood, and AJ Powell, as Ice Blondel, a lovable, endearing Brummie, but in fact the roles don’t matter, or even the plot, which swiftly descends into chaos. Even those on stage don’t even seem to be fully following what’s going on amidst the comic mayhem, except perhaps Berwick, at moments, who writes, co-directs and stars in it! Confusion is a great leveller and the thing is simply to sit back and enjoy this crazy spectacle. It’s not about following what’s going on – it’s about enjoying what is happening from moment to moment.

Suzy Cooper as The Maid Marian in Robin Hood and his Merry Mam! - photo by Kippa Matthews.jpg

With bright, colourful sets, rousing music, a warm rapport with the audience and lines like ‘Don’t bury me at sea – I can’t swim!’, this is a wonderful Christmas show for all the family, in which carrots take on an inexplicably prominent role. In this ‘little local pantomime’, the technical hitches become an integral part of the fun, and Berwick is the jewel in Britain’s panto crown. It is mesmerising to watch his relaxed, generous performance as he leads the audience and his often bewildered cast through a joyful evening of fun, laughter and downright silliness. At one point amidst the slapstick, Berwick cries ‘Remind me, son, what panto are we doing this year?’, and amidst the hilarity, sing-a-long, jokes and capers, it really doesn’t matter.  

Robin Hood and his Merry Mam! is on at York Theatre Royal until 2nd February. Box Office: 01904 623568


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Sounds great! Could anyone give me a lift to York??
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