Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood – Tea Tree Players

Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood – Tea Tree Players

At this time of the year it is always a joy to wait for the lights to go down and for the annual “Panto” to burst asunder! Children in the audience are excited and seem to anticipate the invitation to be involved in the action. Joint Directors, Penny and Mike Phillips don’t disappoint with the TTP end of year offering of “Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood”. All the formulaic and fun elements are present: Good Robin and his band of merry Outlaws, the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham, a couple of his hopeless henchmen, an imprisoned maid, a key to a safe holding fabulous wealth and a Pantomime Dame who weaves her way through the proceedings leaving a trail of sight gags and ancient puns and jokes.

Costuming by Jo Allenby and the Monday Club is an absolute highlight in this colourful production. In particular, I thought the Sheriff’s costume was splendid. Of the many minor players Merici Thompson is a clearly spoken chorus throughout. Joel Strauss is a resonant King Richard, and Cheyenne Loveday is a fetching and well voiced Maid Marian. Cathie Oldfield injects some occasional gravitas into a rather worldly Friar Tuck whilst Kristyn Barnes proves a point at times that there really is “Much to do about Nothing”!

The Sheriff, played by Neil Feakin really looks the part of the “baddie” and the audience demonstrates its disapproval immediately. Neil deals with this reaction to his character quite well although I think there is opportunity to react with a little more evil and a touch more sneering. That would really get things going.

His bumbling pair of servants, Snivell (a very stage savvy Lilly Dolman) and Grovell, (equal counterpart Charlie Klose) share in the slapstick comedic elements of the play and we react accordingly. Their timing and control is excellent. Along with Nurse Nellie Knickerlastic (Frank Cwiertniak) they have the kids in the audience screaming with delight especially in the ghost at the door “It’s behind you” routine. Frank plays Nellie with a droll and almost casual demeanour. He leads audience participation with deft control and every excited young participant up on stage was well rewarded with a bag of sweets. Kids just love that and it is so good to see that tradition make its return after a couple of careful Covid years dictated its absence. Nurse Nellie also leads the chaotic classroom scene which was peppered with student howlers I had not heard for years!

The production team has chosen to incorporate a bright and breezy musical template principally from the sixties and seventies. The audience responded most favourably to the duet “I’ve got you Babe” delivered by Marian (in the tower) and Robin (to the rescue!). Well executed both! I thought that Sam (Bobby White) and Ella (Pearl Howlett) were a well matched duo in both their clarity of expression and overall stage presence.

I cannot make mention of every character in this little end of year romp but once again Clinton Nitschke shines on stage as Little John. He does so because of excellent timing, knowing how to pace himself and being aware of his vocal projection. A stand out performance. I counted twenty-four cast members on the modest Tea Tree Players stage in the finale. Everybody was smiling and having the best time. And so did your enthusiastic audience. A big Twang! from me.

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This production was reviewed by:

Alan Shepley
Alan Shepley
Whilst at University and Adelaide Teachers College he performed with Adelaide Uni Footlights, Therry and Theatre Guild before being appointed to country teaching positions. Over 35 years he was involved with school and/or community theatre productions in all facets of getting a show on stage at Pt. Augusta, Kadina , Balaklava and Pt. Pirie.

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