- Miles Hedley
ROBIN HOOD at Greenwich Theatre
After more than a decade of legendary damehood, Andrew Pollard’s departure as star, writer and director of Greenwich Theatre’s revered annual pantomime raised serious concerns about who could possibly follow him. We needn’t have worried – supervillain Anthony Spargo has become a superhero.
Spargo (above) has been wowing audiences as Greenwich’s favourite panto baddie for years and now he has added another string to his bow by writing the 2022 show, Robin Hood, which also features him as the hilariously loathsome Sheriff of Nottingham.
And I’m delighted to report that his script, just like his stage persona, is as uproariously, snortingly funny as anything that has gone before. In fact, the gags come so thick and fast that they might even outstrip the fabled joke count in the spoof disaster movie Airplane.
Spargo is, of course, as gloriously evil as ever in the role of the sheriff and would be worth the admission price on his own. But the rest of the cast are a treat, too.
Phil Sealey is terrific as Little Joan, gamely taking on Pollard’s mantle as the dame and making a fine fist of it. David Breeds is exceptional as Robin thanks to a winning combination of youthful charisma and a West End voice – and he has real chemistry with his leading lady Amy Bastani, who makes a delightful Maid Marian. Greenwich regular Martin Johnson is a hoot as Friar Tuck, Louise Cielecki is perfect as the Sheriff’s dastardly dog Mutley and the brilliant ensemble is completed by multi-talented duo Sam Rowe and Millen Scrivener.
As is right and proper in panto, there is plenty of ad-libbing and corpsing that serves to underline just how much fun the cast is having, which in turn adds to the audience’s fun. And there are genuinely touching moments as well, particularly between Robin and Marian but also between Joan and Tuck.
Director Matt Aston has wisely retained Greenwich’s traditional panto staples such as silly puppets, delightfully bad special effects and designer Judith Croft’s dayglo comic-strip set. But a welcome innovation is the decision to bring the live band on to the stage, allowing the audience to marvel at the skills of musical director and keyboardist “Uncle” Steve Markwick, guitarist Gordon Parrish and drummer Chris Wyles as they faultlessly work their way through a score that ranges from hiphop to old-fashioned ballads.
I can’t praise this show too highly. Spargo might well be the genius of the piece but he is fabulously supported by the rest of the team. And although Pollard is much missed, his successors as writer and dame will, I feel sure, lead us into a new golden age of panto at Greenwich Theatre.
Robin Hood is on till 8 January. Info/tickets at https://greenwichtheatre.org.uk/events/robin-hood/