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Theatre review: Robin Hood and Marion pumps up the panto principle

Cameron Thomson, as Robin Hood, jousts with Marion, played by Sarah Moir, in the production Robin Hood and Marion at the Metro Theatre in Vancouver until Jan. 7.
Cameron Thomson, as Robin Hood, jousts with Marion, played by Sarah Moir, in the production Robin Hood and Marion at the Metro Theatre in Vancouver until Jan. 7. Tracy-Lynn Chernaske

Robin Hood and Marion

Until Jan. 7 | Metro Theatre, 1370 SW Marine Dr.

Tickets and info: $17-$27,

• • •

A panto is a funny thing,

the actors goof around and sing

and cross-dress, and spectators boo

and cheer and act all silly, too.

The fairy lady speaks in verse,

the demon’s vile, the jokes are worse,

the kids are sweet, the puns are bad,

the acting … let’s just call it ad-

equate to what the play requires.

It works only if it inspires

the audience to play its part,

the actors to respond with heart,

the theatre critic to suspend

his critic’s brain and critic’s pen.

It’s Christmas, right? So give in, man,

to Robin Hood and Marion.

See, this is why some of us are critics rather than poets or playwrights. It’s a lot easier to write about this stuff than to actually write it. Or perform it. But someone has to be the expert. At least that was the case before the Interweb was invented.


OK, enough self-indulgence. Although the Christmas panto runs on exactly that principle: Break all the rules of writerly and actorly restraint, encourage the audience to tear down the fourth wall — no quietly sitting in the dark and politely applauding at the end — and get everyone indulging themselves in a safe, inoffensive, no-holds-barred orgy of family-friendly theatrical transgression.

Robin Hood and Marion is the latest in a 30-plus year tradition of annual Christmas pantos at Metro Theatre. Playwright/director Catherine Morrison frames the fun with the traditional story of lovely Lady Marion (Sarah Moir), heroic Robin Hood (Cameron Thomson) and his merry men, rebelling against the tyranny and taxation of King John’s evil surrogate, the demonic Sheriff of Nottingham (Attila Mityok). 

There are plenty of contemporary tie-ins — references to poverty and homelessness, property values and the GST, and many Trump jokes. Marion and her ladies have a feminist streak (though sometimes they behave like giggly girls), sword fighting and singing about male privilege. When they arrive in Sherwood Forest, one of Robin’s men wonders, “How did you find us?” Answer: “We’re women. We ask directions.”

The busty, cross-dressed dames in this show are cooks Cookie (Daryl Hutchings) and Snifty (Richard Hersley). They sing a song called Bosom Buddies, indulge in corny routines (C: Take a chair. S: Where do you want me to take it?), fight with eggs, flour and spatulas, and lead the audience in songs that had us all dizzily spinning by the end.

The kids get their turn as Red Riding Hood (Adrienne Ma), Hansel and Gretel (Charlie Barstow, Morgan Schmidt), Goldilocks (Rebecca Parker) and a dancing bear (Lincoln Hunt), all bouncing up against gigantic Little John (Michael Bennett). 

Les Erskine provides a handsome set and Rene Schindel the colourful costumes. Pianist Emily Chan is the lone musician, but even so, the unmic’d singers are hard to hear.

Now in its 54th year, Metro Theatre was founded at the same time as the Playhouse and Arts Club, yet has remained resolutely amateur while professional theatre burgeoned in Vancouver. Metro owns its own building (at the foot of the Arthur Laing Bridge), has done over 500 productions, and retains an intensely loyal audience for pantos like this and their season of comedies and melodramas.

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