Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chatterton
Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
November 27, 2021-January 15, 2022; 2hrs 30mins
THE Liverpool Everyman pioneered the now widespread genre of the rock ‘n’ roll pantomime back in the 80s.
The late Bob Carlton, author of Return to the Forbidden Planet – itself a rock and roll reworking of The Tempest infused with jukebox pop of the fifties and beyond – extended the style to produce an upbeat version of traditional festive shows.
The result, back in the day, was Cinderella and Her Rockin 'Fella, which proved so popular it provided the template for an entire generation of Everyman Christmas shows.
The more recent but now firmly established custodians of such revelry are Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chatterton as writers and directors.
This year’s offering is a hybrid of characters clustered around the legend of Robin Hood, whose gene pool is re-examined well beyond Sherwood Forest with the help of a more local Sheriff of Knotty Ash (Mike Slader, who also appears as Rupert the Heir in the form of Rupert Bear).
And while we indulge in nostalgia, there are guest appearances by Bill and Ben – the flowerpot men children’s TV favourites of the 1950s, which at least allows grandparents in the audience to revisit their own infancy.
Central to the evening are the true identities of the Jingles clan (Adam Keast, Stephanie Hockley and an in-drag Matthew Quinn) at the heart of the Robin and Maid Marian conundrum of old.
The lack of a physical programme to decipher what becomes a welter of rapid backstory can lead to plot confusion for a young audience.
But frankly who cares? None of this detracts from the general jollity of proceedings, masterfully engineered by a company of 10 actors, three of them in multiple roles.
While the theatre’s thrust stage is a gift to spectator involvement, discounting the bridged balcony and side gantries means there is a relatively small floor area for choreography, given the additional frequent use of stage traps. So full marks for physical ingenuity in the helter-skelter activity to reunite Robin’s true bow and arrow and unlock the mysteries of his family tree.
The entire ensemble is in good musical voice, the costumes have a Technicolor radiance, and there are several of the expected knockabout moments.
Water pistols at the ready!
Tickets and info here