By Steve Cooke
Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood at the Oldham Coliseum is the perfect treat for the festive season - a much needed antidote to the gloom.
Written by Fine Time Fontayne and Chris Lawson, who also directs, the script is embellished by topical political jokes and lots of local references - the Coliseum’s recent loss of Arts Council funding and recent political chaos being referenced to enthusiastic booing from the aware audience.
The Coliseum is famous for the best traditional pantomime in the Northwest and last year won a national award with the UK Pantomime Association. After experiencing this year’s production, I would be surprised if more awards didn’t pour in for this perfect blend of slapstick, silliness, singing and dancing.
The Coliseum’s traditional pantomime has been delighting audiences for generations [I saw my first Pantomime at the Coliseum in the 1980s], this much-loved festive spectacular being enjoyed by over 35,000 people.
Famed for sticking to tradition rather than being a vehicle for ‘celebrities’ the whole team create a magical mix of all the best panto ingredients.
Shorelle Hepkin drives the performance with infectious enthusiasm building on last year’s award nominated performance for best principal boy, in Aladin.
Fine Time Fontayne as dame is a hard act to follow however Charlie Ryan is an admirable successor as Nurse Nelly - cheekily hilarious - having both young and old rolling in the isles.
Liz Carney and Ian Crowe are magnificently evil with their stage presence and comedic interjections.
Slapstick mayhem is expertly choreographed by Adele Taylor with fight scenes by Kaitlin Howard - superbly performed by a cast that have gelled into a magnificent troupe. A particular highlight being the ‘he’s behind you’ traditional set piece – the ‘yes, he is’, ‘oh no he’s not’ focus this time taking the form of a bear rather than a ghost.
Special mention must be made of the outstanding chorus of local youngsters who are totally profession and taken to the hearts of the audience.
Nathan Morris [Milo in Hollyoaks] plays Failsworth the 'not very bright' foil with great comedic timing and a surprisingly good singing voice.
The excellent live band led by Dave Bintley underpin the fast-moving action with an array of well know hit songs across the pop spectrum from George Ezra to Dolly Parton.
All production photography by Darren Robinson
On until Saturday 7 January 2023 – Oh yes, it is!
Oldham Coliseum Theatre Fairbottom Street, Oldham, OL1 3SW
Box Office: 0161 624 2829