Monday, 8 December 2008

Robinson Crusoe - Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne

Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates
Writer/Director: Michael Harrison
Reviwer: Ian Cain

Ahoy there, shipmates! Get ready for a spectacular, swashbuckling adventure at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates must surely be the most ambitious and costly pantomime that this theatre has ever produced! Upon entering the auditorium, the atmosphere is firmly set; a treasure map is projected around the walls, skeletons occupy the boxes, ships lanterns are hung on each level and a huge skull and cross-bones illuminates the stage.

For the fourth consecutive year, audiences are welcoming back Clive Webb and Danny Adams, the father and son comedy double-act who seem to have taken up an unofficial residency at the Theatre Royal. Having previously seen them perform in Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin, I have to say that, this year, they are at their very best.Apparently, box office takings for this year’s seasonal extravaganza had exceeded a million pounds before the pantomime season began!

This production is visually stunning. Combining an amazing giant robot (named Titan) with 3-D sequences from ‘Amazing Interactives,’ pyrotechnics, a zip-line and all manner of other technical wizardry it is surprising that there is room or time for a story. Yet writer and director Michael Harrison, Managing Director of Qdos Pantomimes, skilfully weaves in a magical tale of good triumphing over evil, filled with comedy, suspense, slapstick and romance – all done in good old-fashioned panto tradition.

Danny Adams plays the title role, complete with trademark laugh and catchphrase – ‘Accideerrnt!’ - and he has the kids in the palm of his hands throughout. He also scores a hit with the Mums, Aunts and Grannies in the audience when, in one scene, he removes his shirt to reveal a respectably toned torso, complete with six-pack. Clive Webb as Captain Crusoe is straight-man to Adams’ clown and integrates his own special brand of comedy-magic into the proceedings. Newcastle’s own Chris Hayward provides a traditional panto dame and wows the audience with an array of fabulous costumes, each one even better than the previous and all designed and created by Chris himself! Watch out for the finale frock and head-dress, it’s sensational.

Kathryn Rooney returns to the Theatre Royal as The Magical Mermaid and enchants the audience with her performance and her singing voice, far outshining Natalie Winsor’s Girl Friday.

Phil Corbitt, as Blackheart the Pirate, cleverly combines Captain Hook with Jack Sparrow and creates an interesting and successful new villain, much to his credit. The principals are ably supported by an energetic all-singing, all-dancing ensemble and a troupe of babes from the Marron Theatre Arts Stage School.

Indeed, this production is a fresh, bold and exciting re-telling of the Robinson Crusoe tale, filled with sword-fights, sea monsters and ship-wrecks. It exudes style, slickness and sophistication and is the best pantomime that the Theatre Royal has produced since Lesley Joseph wowed audiences with her Wicked Queen Lucretia in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 2004/05.
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