Saturday 29 December 2018

29/12/18: Robinson Crusoe, Greenwich Theatre

It was good to have writer and director Andrew Pollard back after his year off (see Cinderella). It was also a delight to see Anthony Spargo again taking on the role of the villain. He enters the stage singing the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” – an excuse for his obligatory annual Mick Jagger impersonation – and full of his usual overwhelming charm and charisma.

The sound was terrible where we were sitting on the far left of the theatre, with the too-loud music bouncing off the walls and often muffling the vocals. Sonic clarity is important when the words are so clever and funny, and also when there's so much noise coming from the children in the audience. It was also frustrating to be sitting under a jet of air conditioning that was hot in the first half and which turned icy after the interval.

These gripes aside, it was a highly enjoyable show with plenty of big laughs. As always, the threadbare “plot” was the least important element – instead of going to live on an island, Robinson Crusoe ended up in the USA. It’s the songs and the on-stage banter that make it so special.

As usual, they managed to squeeze in a couple of scenes of surreal comedy gold – one based entirely on fish puns and another involving anaesthetics in a dental surgery.

Musically, it offered “All Together Now” (The Beatles), “How Deep Is Your Love?” (Bee Gees), “Let’s Stick Together” (Wilbert Harrison) and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” (Shania Twain). The singalong competition judged by “Uncle Steve” was with the “Baby Shark” song, which Pollard correctly observed would mean nothing to anyone over 30.

There were topical and local jokes about Brexit, Theresa May, Donald Trump and Greenwich, along with all the usual daft elements. It’s essentially the exact same show each year, but with ever more inventive costumes. The sets are also inspired, and a scene involving projections of a gold mine effectively evoked the movement of a mine railway journey.

A slow start didn’t bode well, but once Pollard and Spargo hit the stage this was a real treat.

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