The Adventures Of Robin Hood In Cooksonville
South Shields Customs House
Until Saturday 7th January 2023.
The "Little Panto With A Big Heart" returns to 'normal' pantomime with a show that is an absolute cracker. Co-writers Graeme Thompson and Ray Spencer how utilised their talents to create a script that is continuously engaging with the audience. It is a show that makes you laugh - and you keep laughing. The show, famed for punching above its weight, and winner three times of our most entertaining panto, has found its mojo again!
The show has a mix of regular faces and some new hands. Marquelle Ward is first to appear as Robin Hood, taking advantage of some higher perches at the side of the stage. Soon after "business as normal" is signalled as audience favourite Davey Hopper appears as Arbuthnot. His pleasant demeanour quickly gets the audience onboard with his antics. Soon they reply to his "Arr" with a loud "Butt". Davey's physical comedy is matched by the comic timing as he sets up Ray Spencer, who appears once again as his onstage mother Dame Bella Ballcock. Ray, who also directs, is keen to deliver a traditional panto. Thus the classic popular elements like a take off scene are there.
Hopper and Spencer hit peak comedy with the messy scene. Normally a chaotic highlight, tonight it was more slapstick than normal. Some pantos may give a small scene but this panto always finds more foam and splodge than the rest.
The baddie this year is the Sheriff of Nottingham (even though the tale has been relocated to "Cooksonville" as per usual for the Customs House. Steven Lee Hamilton gives a elegant performance as the guy the kids want to boo at. He is assisted at getting Maid Marion (Lucy Elizabeth Davis) to marry him by the Brain Twins (Kieron Michael & Susie Barrett).
Completing the line up this year, fresh off his Radio Newcastle breakfast show, as Alfie Joey. We know, from his run on Britain's Got Talent as one half of the Mimic Men, that he is good at impersonations - but this show asks him the play the Merry Men. All of them. Roll over Alec Guinness and Alfie is the master of the quick costume change - even with Little John on stilts.
In addition to the word play in the script there are some songs - but not too many. The audience are given the chance to witness some great singing. Lucy Elizabeth Davis and Steven Lee Hamilton deliver their songs with intensity. Perhaps the surprise was Davey Hopper whose song particularly suited his range.
So there you have it. 2 hours and 45 minutes (including interval) of comedy, songs and a fun story. It is a fun show that was well worth the trek down to Shields to see it. It might be loose with the Robin Hood tale but it is tight with the spirit of Panto. Be wary of expensive imitations.
Review: Stephen Oliver
The Adventures Of Robin Hood In Cooksonville, sponsored by Hays Travel and Colmans, runs from Thursday 24th November 2022 and runs until Saturday 7th January 2023. Tickets priced from £12 as available online at www.customshouse.co.uk, in person from The Customs House box office, or telephone 0191 454 1234.