PANTO | Robin Hood, a Rock “n” Roll Panto at City Varieties

Nanny Nellie Nightnurse walked into a bar in Sherwood Forest and asked for a Double Entendre… So Little John gave her one.

A pantomime normally requires what’s called a willing suspension of disbelief.

Robin Hood, A Rock “n” Roll Panto at Leeds City Varieties, requires that you bludgeon your disbelief with a comedy rubber club, poke it in the ribs with a quarter-staff, run it through with a cardboard sword, and take it up the tower in the Sheriff of Nottingham’s castle.

Then you toss it off…

Oh, I wouldn’t get away with that kind of gag in a review of a performance at the Leeds Playhouse. But this is panto. At The City Varieties. Which in my view is the pinnacle of panto. The summit of smuttily satirical and somewhat scatalogical seasonal stage based spectacle. The towering triumph of tremendously topical terpsichore. The crowning achievement of uncouth, coarse and colloquially comedic entertainment… I could go on.

Oh, no, you couldn’t!

Oh yes I could, you pusillanimous, pestilential, pongy peasants…

Sorry, channelling my inner Sheriff there for a moment…

The point is, why do a review of panto?

Especially this panto.

It’s not like I need to explain the narrative. If you don’t know the story, where have you been for the last 500 years?

And it’s not like you go to panto expecting some kind of plot intrigue. There’s a baddie (boo!) and a love story, and everything works out fine. That’s it.

But that’s not the point. And, who cares?

Robin Hood, the Rock “n” Roll panto stretches credulity to the snapping point more times than Nanny Nellie Nightnurse’s knicker elastic.

If it’s subtlety, social comment, and cultural sensitivity you are after, I’d suggest a different theatre (but I shan’t, I still want to be on their guest list.)

Robin Hood is gloriously tasteless, gleefully outrageous, and riotously unreal.

And you get to boo.

We don’t boo enough these days. Which is curious given the state the world is sliding into. Doctors ought to be able to prescribe a regular bout of booing on the National Health. Booing is good for you. And there’s no shortage of booing opportunities in Robin Hood – endorphin-pumping, esteem-raising, exhilarating booing that rattles the rafters of the City Varieties every time the name of the villain of the piece, Sheriff Nottingham, is mentioned.

Or, the Sheriff enters stage left; the band plays Dah duh daaah! the lights flicker on and off, every head on stage is swivelled histrionically… and we boo.


Two of my favourite things about panto are, first, it’s genuinely inclusive. I can’t think of many other cultural experiences that can pull in an audience with ages from 3 to 103 (and some of them were even from, dare I say it… council estates! I’ve been going to the panto at City Varieties since I was 4, and we lived in Miggy. Crikey.) And second, it’s always a joy to watch superbly gifted performers – beyond the clowning and overacting and general misbehaviour you don’t get even the smallest part in a panto if you aren’t ridiculously talented. Listen to the Robin Hood cast do any of the tunes featured (and go watch them do that Meatloaf classic, sung, performed, and played absolutely amazingly! If I had to have a favourite on the night, that would be it.)

You can’t get this on Amazon. It won’t be on Netflix. And I’m pretty sure the BBC won’t be putting it on their bloody iPlayer.

You need a ticket. Just go.

Get to the theatre in person. And park your arse on one of the (not entirely comfortable for someone over six foot) stall seats. 

Every performance is unique.You really have to be there. It’s beautiful, brilliant, and bonkers. Funny, frivolous, and feisty. Glorious, gorgeous and generally harmless (unless you happen to be the one in the front row Nurse Nelly Nightnurse decides is the one for her.)

Just don’t sit in row A to C… that would be my one and only tip for panto.