Updated: Feb 22, 2022
A wonderful family Pantomime
It’s Panto season again (oh yes it is) and true to form Durham Gala are putting on a wonderful traditional family show. The in-house team have a long history of bringing the best of panto land to the good people of Durham and this year’s offering – The Adventures of Robin Hood, is another great production guaranteed to give kids and grown ups the best of starts to the festive period.
The story of Robin Hood, Maid Marion, the merry men and their battles with the Sheriff of Nottingham is well known and this panto remains true to the tale, albeit with a little added local fun from the Monks of Murton.
Jacob Anderton (Dark Angel, Coronation Street) is our titular hero, bedecked in his posh tights and with the dash and poise of Errol Flynn. The beautiful Millie Banks (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium) is Maid Marion, King Richard’s daughter and target of the Sheriff’s affections.
Whilst tradition used to decree that the principal boy in a panto would be played by a girl, this show goes one better and posits Robin’s Merry Men as those of the fairer race; Kylie Ann Ford is Friar Tuck, Lauren Waine is Dennis of Dawdon and Lily Storey/Katie Thompson play Little John. This presents many opportunities for some great gags, especially as Robin doesn’t seem to realise his Merry Men should be called Merry Women.
Of course, no panto could be complete without the bad guy and here Durham Gala excel yet again – since 2008 Neil Armstrong has been teasing the audience, chasing the heroes and welcoming the boos. I’d offer that there is no one in the country as good as villain as Neil and this shows every time he takes to the stage. Playing to both the children and the adults, you can’t help but love him as the evil Sheriff.
Rounding out the cast, and providing the madcap silliness are Gala stalwarts Paul Hartley as Will Scarlett and Paul Dunn as Dame Gertie Gossip the castle cook. The 2 Pauls are wonderfully daft giving the kids all the traditional elements of a panto and ensuring the front 5 rows stay very much on their toes.
This is a great family friendly panto – the jokes and fun all land firmly with the younger members of the audience while the ribbing of local towns gives the adults a cheeky grin, the dancing and costumes are shiny and bold and the use of the whole theatre brings the show right into the laps of those watching.