It’s panto time – oh yes... – and Masque Players in West Wycombe get in first with a flamboyant trip into the world of Robin Hood.

This may not be the most popular panto subject, but it has all the necessary elements – the goodies, the baddies, the dafties and the love interest. And a story that can be endlessly tweaked for comic effect.

And at opening night on Thursday, we escaped into a wonderful world of fun up in Nottingham Forest.

It’s amazing the talent in our towns and villages. Great too to see young people still answering the call of the village hall stage and joining in this traditional form of family entertainment.

The cast of all ages put on such a great show with enormous enthusiasm and evident enjoyment.

There are no weak links. The youthful leads Robin (Freddy Rogers) and Maid Marion (Simone Collins) are charming, the children playing townspeople and fairy dancers are delightful, Robin’s merry band full of character, the soppy Wally (Kate Emms) winsome.

There must be a fairy godmother, and this one has a unique take on the role. Holly Jockey-Sticks (Lucy Churches)’s upper-crust, school-marmy character works wonderfully, as she pits her wits and magic against the dastardly Sheriff (Jonathan Holden), as sinister and booh-worthy a baddie as any panto could desire.

The dame, Nellie Scarlet (Alan Frost), is like no other panto dame I’ve seen.

The wacky clothes are there, but in place of the flamboyance is a laid back delivery and droll, dry wit with posh delivery that is surprisingly funny and effective.

Especially when she turns sultry and launches into the song Hey Big Spender. Her Tai Chi routine in the forest is hilarious.  

The Sheriff’s two henchmen steal the show. Tom Curtis as Charlie Cheese and Justin Clinch as Chris Crackers are a brilliantly funny duo, the jokes and antics pouring forth in perfect tempo and they never falter.

They respond to audience catcalls with quick wit and ad-lib brilliantly. And when they unexpectedly start providing the dance backing to the Sheriff’s rendition of the song I’m Bad, it’s hilarious.

Jocelyn Pearce has done a great job in her first year as director, and the live band led by Max Sasim, another first for the panto, is a winning addition to the show. Accolades too to all the back stage crew.

Altogether a most entertaining evening. What better start to the festive season.

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