This year’s Burgess Hill Theatre Club pantomime perfectly captures the recurring theme of good triumphing over bad.
The cast, musicians and supporting crew have quickly adapted to life at a new venue with a fast-paced Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood.
They are getting extra cheers this year because at the start of 2018 it looked like there might not be a pantomime, after Mid Sussex Council decided not to replace the usual venue of the Martlets Hall, which is due for demolition.
“Hiss! Boo!” But the club is putting all that cheerfully behind them with this lively production after Burgess Hill Girls school offered them the splendid Croft Theatre for a pre-Christmas run.
This time the villain is the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham and Burgess Hill Radio’s Josh Murphy attracts his fair share of mock audience bile on his pantomime debut with a display of cunning that would do the current Tory Brexit plotters proud.
Des Fitzpatrick stirs the evil pot as Count Draccers, gamely hanging on to his Eastern European accent, while Zoe Ball’s mother Julia Peckham throws dark menace and a scraping voice into the stew.
The excellent Ellen Hinton as a striding Robin Hood and Stephanie Somerville as sidekick Will Scarlet compete for the longest-legs title, while Sophie Davies adds her usual charm and great diction as a feisty Maid Marion.
No secrets can be given away as the run continues, but the jokes encompass Brexit, Brighton and Hove Albion, Tyson Fury, Crawley and quite a lot of ad libs.
As a robust and larger than life Dame Shuffletoe, Robert Carpenter enthusiastically milks most of the wise-cracks.
Matt Roberts is as irrepressible as ever as a not too bright Rufus, while Richard Gill’s marvellously played Ferdi is another nicely-captured dud bulb on the Christmas tree.
Youngsters Ollie Anderson, as John, and Isobel Thomas, as Jenny, display a pleasing confidence and touching vulnerability as the kidnapped babes, with some cute singing.
Lively dancing routines and some catchy songs keep things on the boil, though an 85-minute first half is surely likely to be trimmed before the end of the run.
Audiences are enjoying raked and comfortable seating at The Croft, with a great view of the action.
The cast deals with the challenges and constraints of a new venue with great enthusiasm and hard work, proving in this pantomime that home is where the heart is.
The pantomime runs until December 22. Tickets are £10 on 01444 242984.
Sleeping Beauty, The Capitol, Horsham: There’s no chance you’ll fall asleep during this high-energy show. Click here to read our review.