Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Babes in The Wood

Hall Green Little Theatre


It’s panto time again – even the Government is joining in this year – and the secret of a good ‘un is a bright and breezy script and strong leads and Hall Green have managed both . . . oh yes they have.

Daniel Robert Beaton opens the batting and revels in being the baddy of the show, the evil, nasty, cruel etc., etc., Sherriff of Nottingham. It is a lovely tongue in cheek performance taking on the audience including the very loud and very enthusiastic cubs and brownies with real zeal and aplomb.

Incidentally, the cubs and brownies were a delight, well behaved and throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the spirit of the show.

While the Sherriff took the audience on, Roy Palmer quickly took them on board as Nanny Nott, the panto’s traditional dame, bustling his way through the script throwing out asides and joking with the audience along the way – a wonderful throwback to the days when music hall was king.

Then there were Willy and the very Brummie Wonga, the Sherrif’s tax collectors and resident idiots, the panto double act, played by James Weetman and Oli Scott. The pair were genuinely funny helped by Weetman’s stentorian voice – he was Owen in the recent Vicar of Dibley – and Scott’s Stan Laurel-like charming stupidity.

Another Dibleyite was Ros Davies, who was the vicar, Geraldine, who pops up as Fairy Bubbles with a wand in need of a little fairy dust, or more likely Viagra. She had the youngsters batting for her from the off in a cheery performance.


Roy Palmer as Nanny Nott

Then there was Jimmy, Nanny Nott’s son and a pensioner we were told, but Steve Parsons had him young at heart and full of mischievous life with a twinkle in his eye.

The script, by Palmer and director Jean Wilde, is a sort of compilation with a traditional tale of Robin Hood combined with the tale of a nephew and niece in the guardianship of the Sherriff, They stand to inherit a fortune when they reach 16, but if anything happens to them before then . . . the Sherriff gets the lot.

No prizes for guessing where this is going, except instead of doing them in the Sherriff’s men – and he only has two -  let the children escape into the forest – hence they are the Babes in the Wood. See we got there eventually.

Robin in the shape of Gemma McCaffrey - the tradition of a Principal Boy is still alive and well - leads the Sheriff a merry dance righting wrongs and bringing justice to the land helped by his band of merry men.

We say band, but, whether it is budget constraints, cut backs, Brexit or staff shortages, Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and Alan Adale, are played by a stick, two hats and a child’s banjo . . . oh, and Richard Scott with more balls in the air than a circus juggler in a clever performance(s).

Emily Beaton is suitably feisty, in a ladylike way of course, as Maid Marion, the object of Robin’s affections, faced with the prospect of marriage to the Sherriff unless she can be saved by Nanny Nott’s cunning plan as it all heads towards a dramatic finale when the Sherriff loses his head, or in this case, his wig. Whether that was scripted I knoweth not, but if it wasn’t, it almost certainly will be by now.

Following everyone faithfully around is Lauren Rote as Bonnie the Dog while Garret Awre risks death every show as Harry, one of the babes along with his sister Megan, a part shared by Maryam Kaleemullah and Maisie Leigh Jones.


James Weetman as Willy and Oli Scott as Wonga

Then we have all the traditional bits of panto such as . . . a jousting contest? . . . and a wrestling match? Whatever, they were there and even had Steven Brear and Richard Woodward as commentators – Brear appearing as well as an ape . . . don't ask.

There is good support from a large ensemble which includes Alfie Redmond as the dentist and Jon Richardson doing his regal bit as King Richard I.

Brear, Richardson and Woodward, incidentally, were the trio in the recent, excellent production of Heroes.

The script, apparently, was one that was produced for a show in 2000, updated 18 years on, and even had some people reprising their roles with Roy Palmer once more as Dame and Ros Davies unfurling her wings again as the fairy

The set works well and Wilde uses the auditorium well with many an entrance or exit down the centre aisle which all helps to involve the audience in a show that already boasts a lot of audience participation.

It is the best Hall Green panto I have seen in some time with plenty of fun and driven by some fine performances to make for a highly entertaining evening. To 15-12-18

Roger Clarke


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