24 Sep Robin Hood Coming to Harlow Playhouse this December
While it can be a bit of an acquired taste, pantomime is a long-standing Christmas tradition in the UK. It all began sometime in the 15th century as an offshoot of the Mummer’s Play but echoes of its many tropes, including comedy, dancing, and slapstick violence, come from the Roman Empire. Traditionally, an all-male affair, as Shakespeare’s plays tended to be as well, pantomime has evolved to become something of a free-for-all in terms of who can play what on stage.
Today, pantomime is well-known in the UK for its audience participation and accessible writing. As with any type of comedy, it usually takes a brave soul indeed to sit close to the stage.
This odd tradition continues its happily ever from November 24 in Essex, when Beauty and the Beast opens at the Towngate Theatre, Basildon. The occasion marks the beginning of another pantomime season in the county, a period that currently includes thirteen dates that run to the beginning of 2022. Beauty and the Beast includes the famous ballroom scene from the Disney cartoon, in which Belle and her Minotaurian beau first begin their courtship, in the paraphrased words of Emma Watson.
The Beauty and the Beast pantomime will also visit the Chelmsford Civic Theatre from November 26 – January 3.
Jack and the Beanstalk
As far as other adventures are concerned, popular stories including Cinderella, The Night Before Christmas, Aladdin, and Jack and the Beanstalk will be performed in pantomime fashion over the festive period. The camp stylings of the performances will grace ten towns in Essex, namely, Hornchurch, Colchester, Clacton-on-Sea, Westcliff-on-Sea, Witham, Brentwood, Braintree, Harlow, and the previous two places, Basildon and Chelmsford, before the end of the season.
Legendary character Robin Hood closes off the 2021 run of shows, though. The emerald archer from Sherwood Forest visits Harlow Playhouse between December 3 – January 2. Local actor Ben Parsley stars alongside Jimmy Burton Iles in the medieval romp, which is just the latest in appearances from Robin Hood since his inception sometime in the 14th century. Pantomimes aside, these other efforts have ranged from the woeful to the unremarkable.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Errol Flynn takes the king’s ransom for his performance of the honourable rogue, way back in 1938. However, most modern viewers will connect Robin Hood with Kevin Coster in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – or perhaps the later (1993) spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights. As Russell Crowe’s 2010 effort almost completely skipped over Hood’s status as a heroic outlaw, preferring a Batman Begins-type of origin story, it’s hard to recommend it as a classic of the ancient franchise.
Modern media has introduced people to the character in all sorts of different ways. The casino industry has a long-standing love affair with Nottingham’s green crusader, with a number of slots dedicated to the icon. Robin Hood Shifting Riches is perhaps one of the better-known titles in the niche but Lady Robin Hood and Robin Hood’s Wild Forest by Red Tiger helped to take the character in several new directions. There’s also Robin: Nottingham Raiders, a new slots game that ranks as one of the highest RTP slots on the market. RTP or Return to Player is defined as the number of wins divided by the amount wagered. Robin: Nottingham Raiders has an RTP of 96.09%, which means that players will get £96.09p back for every £100 spent.
Elsewhere, Robin Hood has never quite taken off as a video game character, despite the existence of more than ten games released since 1982, when Sherwood Forest was launched on the Apple II. The Oliver Twins’ Super Robin Hood was released by Codemasters just four years later but Hood’s modern representatives almost begin and end with 2021’s forgettable title Hood: Outlaws & Legends by developer Sumo Newcastle.
Of course, It remains to be seen what the Harlow Playhouse can contribute to the character’s storied history. Pantomime season begins throughout the UK in November with up-to-date schedules available at most theatres and civic halls.