Every pantomime needs to get off to a strong start and wow! does Robinson Crusoe storm the stage with a magnificent roar of an opening, as Mark Ward introduces himself as Captain Blackhead. This baddie pirate of the seas terrifies children and adults alike, but he may need to sip honey and lemon between performances if he’s going to keep his voice! He took seconds to ensure that all would be against him every time he grabbed the stage and despite there not being a full house, they were without doubt a very keen and willing audience who threw themselves into participating at every possible occasion. His delightful accomplice, Anemone, was on my night Olivia Leggett, a clearly very talented and engaging young girl. To be on stage is to stay in character, to interact with the audience and cast, and to enjoy your experience; well, Olivia has cracked all of those and could hold masterclasses in stage craft!
The pace of a pantomime is often difficult to establish from the very outset on opening night, but there was no need to have any worries as each character made their entrance and established the storyline. Delightfully cast Charlotte James as Polly Perkins, Robinson’s love interest, provides some wonderful duets with Sally Ager, the principal boy.
Every pantomime needs a colourful, larger-than-life dame to appear in magnificent costumes and wigs and Lee Neal ticks all the dame requirement boxes along with an impressive selection of high heels which he has clearly spent time rehearsing in, as he competently struts his stuff around the stage and even manages forays up and down the stage steps to interact with the audience.
An interlude of animated cinematography to take the audience into the sea is a delightful and innovative masterpiece enjoyed by all: beautiful underwater scenes as we travel along with the marine life. Excellent backdrops, scenery, props and sets ensure a professional production.
Beautiful dancing along with lovely costumes is choreographed by the clearly talented and expert Gemma Davis, who has brought with her four of her experienced dancers, Alisha Baldry, Beth Sims Tyers, Ellis O’Brien and Gabby Travers, while a cast of fully engaged children ensured a successful and delightful performance.
But, the absolute star performance is from Matt Tyler as Silly Billy, Robinson’s brother, who bounds onto the stage and delivers, really delivers. The show is written, musically directed and directed by Lee Redwood, who must have been incredibly relieved to have cast Matt in this pivotal role. And to add to every other talent he has, a fabulous voice, too.
Hilarious jokes, timely delivery and a responsive audience and cast produce a highly entertaining evening. How the extensive lines and extremely fast-paced songs were learnt is beyond me and I wish every single one of them all the best for the rest of their run: 17 and 18 February at 3 pm.