If you’re aiming for some fantastic festive entertainment then shoot in the direction of Milton Keynes Theatre where Robin Hood will certainly hit the bullseye!
Soap star Shane Richie plays the title role and the EastEnders actor demonstrates he’s just as much at home in the crazy world of panto as he is in Albert Square.
He built up an instant rapport with the crowd, especially one poor audience member who was dragged on to the stage to help him practice his wooing techniques ready for Maid Marion (Zoe George).
But this isn’t just a one-man production, the supporting cast were simply brilliant too.
Peter Piper as Friar Tuck was superb, even if he did struggle to keep the little hair he possessed in place for most of the evening.
Armed with a water gun he had the audience rather nervous early on - especially when he considered this squirter wasn’t powerful enough – and so produced an alternative to strike fear into even the very back rows!
Tuck decided to do a test of Robin’s intelligence, with sensible answers outlawed of course. There was also a rather rude ending to this Mastermind session which had my two children asking my wife and I for an explanation. Thankfully the action was so fast-paced the kids were distracted from taking the parental interrogation any further!
Enter the Sheriff of Nottingham (Pete Gallagher) who was the perfect baddie and certainly earned his fair share of booing. He even treated us to a Donald Trump impression for a while - promising to build a wall around Sherwood Forest to keep Robin out!
But his ultimate plan was to lure Robin to an archery contest where the prize was an eye-watering 1,000 sovereigns, with the aim of capturing him, having him hanged, or, if he was feeling really ruthless, banishing him to Luton!
We were then introduced to the Merry Men (The Acromaniacs) who certainly had a spring in their step as the international gymnasts performed a fantastic comedy trampoline routine. The set-play also involved the less than elastic Little John (Jamie Kenna) getting in the way. Jamie had an uncanny resemblence to comedian Lee Mack (I later read in his panto programme biog that he starts filming Not Going Out with Mack in the New Year).
With rousing songs, including a couple of numbers from the ever-popular Greatest Showman, the first half flew by - culminating with the Sheriff’s huge dastardly beast emerging spectacularly from the shadows and being unleashed on Robin. It did however look a few million years out of place in Sherwood Forest.
Thankfully, given he’d won the archery cash prize but left the castle without rescuing Maid Marion, Robin survived for the second half which was packed with comedy routines. Watch out for one involving saucepans and spoons, the four-in-one dancing outfit, and, of course the 12 Days of Christmas song which featured a couple of “accidents” which almost brought the house down!
With all this fun taking place you didn’t want to misplace your supplied 3D specs for a trip into the scary Sherwood Forest. The pop-out effects in this mini movie were startlingly good - but maybe a little alarming for younger children.
As if this all wasn’t magical enough, illusionist Phil Hitchcock conjured up even more excitement by wowing the audience with some remarkable wizardry in his role of Merlin, while Gina Murray as the Spirit of Sherwood and ladies’ man Michael Quinn (Will Scarlet) also played their parts with aplomb.
Overall this is brilliant family fun that’s certain to get you in the Christmas spirit.
Boredom has certainly been outlawed by Qdos Entertainment’s Robin Hood.
Performances run until Sunday, January 13. Call the box office on 0844 871 7652 or see www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes