Star rating: *****
One of the best pantomimes I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this season – Maid Marian and the Merry Men at Worcester Swan Theatre. Last year’s version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ which saw my little boy and I visit the theatre for the first time, was a real revelation so I was looking forward to this season’s effort and it absolutely did not disappoint.
Chris Jaeger, who is Chief Executive and Artistic Director at the theatre, has written the script and it’s a traditional one through and through yet cleverly doubles as a modern day take on the art of pantomime. With Maid Marian at the helm instead of Robin Hood, the show has moved with the times whilst keeping the usual quick-fire gags, opportunities to boo the baddie aka boo til you’re blue and audience participation encouraged at all times.
The story is not dissimilar to the well-known tale of Robin Hood and he does feature in the show, however incarnation is based around a feisty, independent Marian. She’s under the protection of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham who’s squeezing taxes out of the local residents and desperate to marry off Marian to Guy of Gisborne so that Marian’s money will stay in the Sheriff’s family. Cunning eh? Meanwhile there’s a half-soaked Friar Tuck eager to re-join Robin Hood’s band of merry men, Dame Ginny is on hand for madcap antics together with Willy the Wally and there’s Robin himself of course, he’s a bit of a dim-wit and head over heels in love with the leading lady. No I don’t mean Dame Ginny, she’s on the search for a husband from amongst unwitting male members of the audience. Watch out! The merry men are a bit on the young side, so they’re helped (or hindered) by the other characters as they endeavour to bring about the downfall of the Sheriff of Nottingham and help Marian to shake off Guy of Gisborne too.
Genevieve Lowe is extraordinary as Maid Marian, she’s a performer de force and her vocal ability is stunning. Tom Riddell gives a humour-filled performance as Robin, he had the audience on side from the outset. Heidi Gowthorne was a fabulously sparkly Fairy, quirky and gentile in equal measure. John-Robert Patridge shone as Dame Ginny, ably filling the shoes of Ben Humphrey who directed this season’s extravaganza but was notably absent from the pinny. Patridge was hilarious in the role, Humphrey was missed but his personal stamp on the overall show was evident. Jamie Kwasnik made the role of Friar Tuck his own and his comic timing was superb. Wilf Williams managed to make Guy of Gisborne a dashing yet clumsy oaf who was completely under the spell of the Sheriff. Charlie Ryan was quite the clown as Willy the Wally and his facial expressions alone were comedic. Liz Grand commanded the stage as the Sheriff of Nottingham, fierce, no-nonsense and extremely happy to receive as many boos and jeers as possible, she is a one of the jewels in Worcester Rep’s crown.
All in all, it’s a fast-paced, humour-packed affair with exceptional scenery, excellent choreography and a lot of fun for all the family. The musical numbers all fit in brilliantly with the plot and there’s a fantastic disco medley to put you in that party mood.
If you want to try and get your hands on a ticket before Maid Marian and the Merry Men closes, you can do so here: Worcester_Live