By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHEN?: Saturday 26 November (matinee), opens 2 December and runs to 8 January 2023 RUNTIME: 150 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
There’s a new dynamic to this year’s annual Greenwich Theatre pantomime with the strongest performance we can ever remember from a leading man thanks to Dear Evan Hansen‘s David Breeds (pictured centre above).
- Read on for reasons including how this annual pantomime’s Queen may be dead but long live the King
Breeds plays the titular Robin Hood as regular pantomime dame and writer Andrew Pollard steps aside to make way for familiar face Anthony Spargo to play the Sheriff of Nottingham and also to pen this year’s show.
There is a reason why this venue’s annual pantomime continues to win 5* reviews from us and to even win awards and, although its driving force may have changed, the tried and tested formula is very much stuck to like glue.
Spargo clearly knows his way around an amusing and saucy quip: ‘Have you ever hunted bear?’ ‘No, I always keep my tights on.’
And the archery puns are rapid-fire: ‘Have you ever practised archery blindfold?’ ‘You don’t know what you’re missing.’
Spargo’s late arrival to the show to the strains of both Queen’s I Want It All and Another One Bites The Dust sees him channelling both Frank’n’Furter and Rik Mayall and is so iconic that the children in the audience are whooping and clapping along without it even being suggested to them as an appropriate response.
The audience for this matinee may be predominantly young families but it’s testament to what a reliably brilliant annual show this always is that the atmosphere is engaged and raucous from the off.
Phil Sealey as Little Joan has a giant basque to fill and gives us early audience sass (‘When was the last time you pitched a tent, sir?’ to a young dad in the front row), deaths drops at 1 point and reminds us of the importance of a dame to the very best of pantos.
There’s a tradition in this panto that the cast split the audience in 2 to see who can sing the loudest and Sealey and Breeds absolutely revel in the competition as the roof is literally whipped off the Greenwich Theatre to the absolute delight of everyone around me and it’s clear that Breeds is having an absolute ball.
We loved the feminist storyline with Breeds’ Hood needing saving by the feisty Amy Bastani as Maid Marian (pictured on top below). We loved the sympathy for Louise Cielecki’s Mutley (pictured on the floor below) and she absolutely made the most of her role with her adaptation of Mr Cellophane from Chicago proving an unexpected early highlight.
Martin Johnston is also a familiar face from recent Greenwich Theatre pantos of old and he brings a gravitas but also a sense of fun and likely romance to Friar Tuck. The number featuring confectionary from his Tuck Shop was also executed expertly.
There are snatches of Kate Bush’s phenomenal Running Up That Hill from the hugely talented 3-strong onstage band that keep everything together, Stranger Things references and Andrew Pollard’s Queen may be dead but long live the King that is Anthony Spargo.
We might have even shed a little tear at the line: ‘Strong people stand up for themselves but the strongest people stand up for others.’
We’ve said it before and will say it again – there are some amazing pantomimes to see every year in London including in the West End particularly but the very best 1 was, and continues to be, right here on our doorstep in Greenwich.
Don’t be blindfolded this Christmas – you won’t know what a heartwarming and entertaining Robin Hood you’ll be missing.
- Pictures by Lidia Crisafulli via Facebook courtesy Greenwich Theatre Tickets
- Have you seen a Greenwich Theatre pantomime before and what did you think of it? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
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