Robin Hood: The Rock n Roll Panto – City Varieties, Leeds – Review
By Steve Crabtree, December 2023
So, panto season is back. And in Leeds, it’s back with a bang… and a boom, some loud guitar and some awesome tunes.
Robin Hood: The Rock n Roll Panto is on the City Varieties stage in Leeds this Christmas. And I can promise you… it really DOES rock!
I’d forgetten how much I love pantomime. It’s a simple joy, isn’t it? It’s the one stage show that’s pretty much guaranteed to have something in it that every member of the audience enjoys. And in City Varieties tonight, we have the full mix of people. Married couples (including yours truly and Alex, my wife), people in their early 30s celebrating their birthdays, a group of about 25 choir ladies, and families with kids galore.
As promised, Robin Hood started with a bang at 7pm, and the Sheriff of Nottingham is collecting taxes and cancelling May Day festivities. He also plots to exploit the fortune of his ailing brother’s ‘babes’, and all the while he’s hoping to marry Maid Marian. However, she has her sights on marrying Robin Hood, and, before long, shenanigans, hilarity, love and games ensue.
“Made us laugh”
There’s a brilliant cast. Lucy Keirl plays a fantastic Maid Marion. Samuel Pope gives us a suave Robin Hood. Kenny Davis is villainous as the evil Sherriff of Nottingham – but everyone treading the boards is sensational. They entertain and make us laugh – but the talents don’t end at panto-performers.
What a great bunch. All playing their own instruments – some of them playing three or (I think) four. And with that, it was nice to see a couple of stars from this year’s Mikron Theatre productions up there playing Rowena and Regina. I saw Hannah Baker and Louisa Beadel in Twitchers earlier in the year, and they were as great in Panto as they were in one of the best four-piece, touring theatre companies around.
The show stealer of the night was, without a doubt, Guy Freeman as Numbskull, one of the Sheriff’s co-workers. Numbskull by name, numbskull by nature… but the comedy value of this character is hilarious. Whether he’s playing the idiot, dressed as a seductive woman, or singing ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’, he has everyone in stitches. The quivering lip when Maid Marian breaks his heart is the best quiver on the stage… and that’s quite a compliment when the show is Robin Hood!
Oh. And the puppeteers who brought the birds to life (and the rat/mouse thing!) did a great job too. Very funny. I just giggled at the enthusiastic moves from a load of stuffed creatures!
The corny jokes are there as you’d expect – in fact, they’re pretty brilliant! Panto Dame Nanny Nellie (Simon Nock) executes these in abundance and throws innuendos out left right and centre with great panache.
“Slapstick comedy with fantastic tunes”
And then there’s the music. There are some top tunes in Robin Hood. ‘Rockin’ Robin’ opens the show, and we get ‘500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers in the set list too.
Keirl and Pope’s performance of Meat Loaf’s rock classic ‘I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ is stellar. ‘I Fought The Law’ by The Clash is another favourite for me, and they’re there alongside other hits such as ‘I Shot The Sherriff’, ‘Born To Run’ and Supergrass’s ‘Alright’. The latter probably being my favourite song in this jukebox panto.
City Varieties is known for its rock n roll pantomime, but it’s the first time I’ve ever been to see one. And I can honestly say that mixing slapstick comedy with fantastic tunes performed to a really high standard works. It’s perhaps the best panto I’ve seen, even eclipsing Aladdin at Halifax Civic Theatre in 1986, where I accidentally met Geoff Capes.
Alex and I had a really good evening watching this. Yes, we got wet, yes we laughed lots, and yes we got up and danced at the end. It’s started Christmas for us, and it’s very possible that we’ll go along and see Robin Hood: The Rock n Roll Panto again before the year is out!
‘Robin Hood: The Rock n Roll Pantomime’ is at Leeds City Varieties until 7th January 2024
Images: Ant Roblin