Hordes of excited children and their parents packed the Churchill Theatre last week for the opening night of Babes in the Wood.
Starring a popular Welsh entertainer as Robin Hood, an Irish singer as Maid Marion, a South African-born actress sending up
the popular image of a pantomime fairy and Arthur Bostrum from ĎAllo ĎAllo continuing to murder the French accent, the show
has an international flavour.
It also has some delightful sets, good dance routines and a particularly good comedy duo in Bill Bellamy and Richard
Gauntlett as kind-hearted ruffians, tasked with disposing of the Babes.
Max Boyce as the hero generates great charm and warmth and his appeal to the younger members of the audience is undeniable.
But he never dominates the stage in the same way as in his one-man shows. Multi-talented he may be but his role as the folk
hero of Sherwood Forest rests a little uncertainly on his shoulders.
Shelia Steafel exhibits a little too much restraint in what should be an effervescent portrayal of the Fairy Klora Filla, while
Hugh Lloyd needs to adopt a much more zestful approach to bring Nurse Goodbody to suitable larger-than-life proportions.
Nevertheless, as the pantomime gets into its stride, I have little doubt that the talents of these artists will begin to blossom.
Leon Greene, whose deep baritone voice copes splendidly with the all too few songs he is allotted, however creates an
imposingly evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Jennifer Howe also sings extremely well in addition to playing Maid Marion with
confidence and charm.
All in all there is enough spectacle to delight most children but more popular songs and tighter direction from
Kenn Oldfield might have created a livelier event.