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Review: Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood at the Woodville, Gravesend

By Chris Price

There are not many festive traditions worse than bad panto.

For years, the Christmas show at the Woodville was an example of this, typically with a half-interested C-list star going through the motions of a well-trodden script on a second-rate set.

Credit, then, must go to the cast and crew of Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood, who have lifted this theatre out of pantomime mediocrity and into a genuine contender for your money this Christmas.

The cast of The Woodville panto, from left Eleanor Sandars, Keavy Lynch, Ricky Norwood, Edele Lynch, Ant Payne and Robert Pearce

Ricky Norwood, as a half-rudeboy Sheriff of Nottingham, gained top billing alongside B*Witched twins Keavy and Edele Lynch as the Fairy of the Forest and Witch of the Wood.

Yet the real star was Kent panto journeyman Ant Payne as Silly Billy Scarlett, ably supported by Robert Pearce as Nurse Nellie.

No reference to bums, poo, willies or smells was a reference too far for Mr Payne, who made sure the atmosphere was kept positively infantile, much to the audience’s delight.

What stopped this show slipping from the daft to the naff was the big singing numbers of Eleanor Sandars as Robin Hood and Amy-Jane Ollies as Maid Marian.

Eleanor, in particular, proved she knows how to hit the bullseye with a show tune although a duet of Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You drew more giggles the ‘ahhs’ from the audience.

Britain’s Got Talent classical duo Keiran Sutcliffe and Sarah Jameson as Friar Tuck and Little John were constrained to keeping their operatic skills to the odd comical moment but it was the big group numbers which were on target.

The expected chorus of B*Witched hit C’est La Vie even prompted some dancing in the aisles, with a continegent of flag-waving Irish fans in the front row leading the sing-a-long.

Edele Lynch, who seemed to take her evil inspiration from Cruella de Vil, thanked the crowd at the end of the show for coming out and supporting their local theatre.

At this rate, it won’t be just the locals taking their seats by the end of this run.

To check out all the pantos on offer across Kent, click here

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