Twenty-seven actors on stage, another thirty-odd backstage and front of house, and hundreds of happy punters. It must be another Polegate pantomime – Robin Hood this year – and a performance well up to expectations.
The hall of Polegate Community Centre, nowadays equipped with proper lighting and sound, feels like a proper small theatre, and only the tight dimensions of the stage itself set slight limits on the direction. It’s fabulously dressed, too, and outrageous Dame Chris Thompson parades a wardrobe to compare with Martyn Knight’s, while Pat White’s breezy band sustains an upbeat musical tempo.
That pace is not always quite maintained by the cast, labouring with a stodgy script which relies on wincingly awful humour and an excess of toilet jokes. Just one year short of the group’s fiftieth anniversary, several stalwart founder members are still involved, and in a lovely nostalgic touch the overture has Robin Hood “riding through the glen” to the strains of the original TV theme.
But it’s the slightly younger crop of Polegate performers who steal this show. Laurence Dengate-Roe is a hoot as Little John, and the lead pair of Laura Buck (Robin) and Claire Strudwick (Marian) both interact and sing beautifully. And younger still, the actual Babes in the Wood Heather Tingley, Lilly McKay and Kaci Sims, are confident and bright.
And who is that chap sitting at the back of the stalls, nodding in benign approval? Why, it’s Trevor “That-should-have-been-me-up-there” Fuggle, who broke his ankle in the last week of rehearsals and replaced as Friar Tuck by director David Buck. Break a leg, Polegate! By Kevin Anderson