Panto is more lush than lavish; LESLEY OLDFIELD and family pay a seasonal visit to Newcastle's Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre.
A PUN-TASTIC night was had by all as the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre's annual panto opened at the weekend, complete with dancing girls, gravel-voiced dame and a charming idiot who almost stole the show.
Numpty Norman, as his friends apparently like to call him, won the hearts of the audience from the start, interacting with the responses, or lack of them, and making a perfect fool of himself.
However, the biggest laugh of last night's Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood came when a young audience member decided to break the panto code by helping the baddie! "Where did they go?" roared the Sheriff of Nottingham. "Down there," a small voice replied. Bless.
Very much a traditional panto, it began with a witty scene-setting introduction, placing the action in Nottingham upon Tyne, in 1191 ... long before, as we later discover, many things were invented. I won't spoil all the groan-worthy jokes, but King Richard was off crusading, "two years for the price of one with EasyJoust".
We meet Maid Marion, played by JoJo Hatfield, of Capital FM, who has a very sweet smile and a voice to match. And, who, of course, has the hots for Robin of Throckley.
Principal boy Janie Mackenzie has highheeled thigh-length boots, skin-tight shorts and long, blonde locks. "Proper lush", as Marion puts it. It's a show full of Geordie.
Janie has a great voice, belting out (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher in her opening number. But I'm afraid her requests for the audience to chant "wassup Robin!" were met with little enthusiasm. Norman - Charlie Richmond - did not let a lacklustre response go unchallenged, however. To a muted "Aaah", he replies: "It's sadder than that," and a much bigger "Aaah" comes right back at him. He no doubt also won favour early on by batting marshmallows into the auditorium!
Veteran of the theatre's pantos Maxie Peters, who is also director, brimmed with confidence as Nurse Nitty Nora, the ancient, lusty and lustful guardian of the royal babes. Clear-voiced and black-hearted Sheriff Steve Wraith is the target of his affections.
Glen Joseph is brilliant in, as he points out, no less than three parts. And I must mention the young dancers, who did an enchanting number as woodland creatures, with the help of the chorus of adult dancers as fairies.
It may not be the most lavish show in town, but this warm-hearted affair is an affordable night's festive entertainment.
Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood is at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre until January 6. Box office 0844 493 9999.
LOCAL HUMOUR Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, with audience favourite Numpty Norman, front row on the right