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Malcolm’s secret of the forest – his Robin Hood had to be ‘panto-fied’

IF you see six men with broad-swords getting ready for a scrap in the vicinity of Solihull Arts Complex don’t dial 999!

IF you see six men with broad-swords getting ready for a scrap in the vicinity of Solihull Arts Complex don’t dial 999!

They’re just some of the cast of Robin Hood, the pantomime that opens at the town centre venue tonight (Friday).

The Solihull News went along to see ‘Sherwood Forest’ taking shape and the actors hard at work in rehearsals.

When I arrive, Malcolm Stent, who writes, directs and appears as Friar Tuck in the show, has a surprising confession - Robin Hood’s not a pantomime.

Before there are any shouts of ‘oh yes it is!’ let Malcolm - now on his 21st show in Solihull - explain.

“It’s not one of the traditional stories, so I’ve had to do my research and panto-fy it myself,” he says.

“When we announced what we were doing at the end of Aladdin last year there was a little ‘ah!’ from everyone in the audience.”

And the Brummie funnyman sees Robin Hood as the successor of Babes in the Wood - which has rather fallen from favour.

“It’s just not politically correct these days to have a story about two kids being taken in the wood to be killed. You wouldn’t get away with it.”

We’re taken into the studio next door where the actors are working their way through a few song and dance numbers.

At this stage they’re in casual clothes - it’s always slightly strange seeing the Sheriff of Nottingham in a t-shirt and trainers.

When a certain 90s pop song comes to an end, we grab a word with Robin (Rudy Heywood) and Marian (Diana Chrisman).

“They’ve gone with the tights,” Rudy confirms, when we ask what he’ll be wearing. “I love the costume actually, there’s a very nice pair of boots.

“It’s very action-packed this show. I love it. We’ve got a big fight sequence with real swords and quarter-staffs.”

A specialist has been brought in to choreograph the battle scenes and ensure no-one ends up impaled - which would surely put a dampener on the festive atmosphere.

“They blunt the swords, but you still have to watch them,” says Diana, who returns to Solihull for a third year.

She has previously appeared in Cinderella and was the lead in last year’s Aladdin. “It’s lovely to be back here, this is becoming my home every Christmas, and I get to play a girl in this year’s show.”

* Robin Hood runs until January 8. Tickets on 0121 704 6962.

 

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