Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Julia Pattison
Theatre Correspondent
9:15 AM 15th December 2023

Galleons Of Laughter With Robinson Crusoe

AJ  Powell and Crew
Production Images: ©Charlie Kirkpatrick.
AJ Powell and Crew Production Images: ©Charlie Kirkpatrick.
There was a tidal wave of warm emotion as we all stepped aboard to enjoy Berwick Kaler and the Gang’s panto “Rubbish” at Grand Opera House, York, on December 14th, and it felt like a family reunion.

There was a wonderful build-up of anticipation about seeing York’s best-loved dame. We were treated to a frantic film of Berwick as he dashed out of bed, having ‘slept in ‘, through the streets of York, finally arriving at the theatre—a great fun start to the show.

Captain Hook
Production Images: ©Charlie Kirkpatrick.
Captain Hook Production Images: ©Charlie Kirkpatrick.
The much anticipated greeting, “Me Babbies, Me Bairns," met a warm reception, and there was a real feeling of affection as Berwick introduced us to the ensemble: Benjamin Goodwin, Belle Kizzy Green, Grace Hawksworth, Niamh Hendron, and Henry Rhodes (who'd worked with Berwick in Panto when he was eight years old and went on to train at the Academy of Northern Ballet, Elmhurst Ballet School).©

Written by Berwick, this year’s panto, Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates of the River Ouse, was fresh and funny, and the camaraderie and stage presence of the cast really came across well in the telling of the story. We loved to boo David Leonard, playing the Villain Narcissus with his usual flair and swagger; he cut a fine figure as he went about his dastardly deeds, all with that sense of mischief that we’ve come to know and love. There were some hilarious moments in his scene with Lovely Jubbly, played by the delightful AJ Powell; moustache malfunctions were all part of the fun for this experienced pair of performers.

Suzy Cooper
Production Images: ©Charlie Kirkpatrick.
Suzy Cooper Production Images: ©Charlie Kirkpatrick.
Suzy Cooper sizzled in her role as Polly/Fairy Britannia and ruled our hearts with her awesome acting, dancing, and singing; her scene with the ensemble when she performed the splits with such grace and ease earned her well-deserved applause.

Berwick played Dame Dotty Dulally and wasn’t at all afraid to be self-deprecating about his advancing years, making it part of the show, and it was a joy to see Martin Barrass in the role of his earnest son Willy, with all the usual bounce and energy we’ve come to expect from York’s best-loved ‘Son'.

The sets were stunning and made a real impact as the story unfolded, complementing the action on stage. Particular highlights were The Pirates of the Ouse (Yo ho ho, what fun! ), All Aboard, and finishing Act One with a spectacular Sink or Swim.

We cheered Robinson Crusoe (Jake Lindsay) as he helped The Gang thwart our villain in his quest to get his hands on the all-important Book of Spells and laughed loudly as Narcissus suddenly took a liking to Yorkshire Pud (no spoilers!).

Dame Berwick
Production Images: ©Charlie Kirkpatrick.
Dame Berwick Production Images: ©Charlie Kirkpatrick.
Children from Dance Expression School of Dance (alternating with Lisa Marie Performing Arts) provided the "ah" factor, and it was a delight to watch them perform so confidently. What a wonderful opportunity for those young people who’ll probably go on to live their dream just like Henry Rhodes.

We all gustily sang the Yorkshire Pud song, and lucky audience members eagerly caught the fabled Waggon Wheels. The show ended on a high note and in plenty of time for young children to get to bed in time for the next day's school.

Another cosy encounter with a very special York crew.

Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates of the River Ouse continues at Grand Opera House, York until Saturday 6 January 2024