The star-studded cast from the New Theatre Royal Lincoln’s Christmas pantomime, Robin Hood, came together for the first time this week ahead of the show, which runs from Tuesday 3rd December 2019 – Sunday 5th January 2020.
The Mayoral party were in attendance to officially welcome the cast to Lincoln, and they really got into the pantomime spirit when they put the Sheriff of Nottingham into stocks for his bad behaviour. A team of young reporters from Monks Abbey Primary School also came along to ask the cast some testing questions.
Children’s BAFTA award-winner Barney Harwood (Blue Peter, Prank Patrol) will play the role of Robin Hood. He returns after appearing as the Huntsman in last year’s Christmas pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and is currently working on an exciting new documentary commission for Netflix and Amazon Prime. When asked whether he was excited to be back in Lincoln he said: “I can’t wait, I love Lincoln. [And it’s] not just the fact that it’s Robin Hood, but the fact that it’s this theatre… so many places are being turned pubs and clubs, destroying the heritage of these fantastically designed, beautiful buildings and the fact that Natalie and Mike are doing what they’re doing here in returning it to its former glory, I’m all for that, so I’ll be here as long as I can be to help out.”
A true stalwart to the New Theatre Royal stage is CBBC’s ‘Yonko’ Chris Johnson who will appear as one of the merry men, Will Scarlet. Chris has appeared in every pantomime since Cinderella in 2017 and has recently been busy recording podcasts for BBC Radio 5 Live and Out of the Broom Cupboard. He said: “It’s always a joy to be even thought of for one of the shows here, never mind asked back. So, to have the chance to play out with this team again, I’m over the moon.”
Starring as Maid Marian is Zoe Hedge who previously appeared on ITV’s The Voice as part of duo Capital B, where she was chosen to be on Sir Tom Jones’ team. Zoe is new to Lincoln but can’t wait to spend Christmas here: “It’s beautiful, I can’t wait to explore the cathedral, the castle, the Christmas market – I’ve heard great things.”
Someone who is no stranger to the New Theatre Royal stage is Lincoln’s own Chris Hayes, who appeared in this year’s Easter pantomime The Wizard of Oz as Glindora Mama Munch. Chris will star as Friar Tuck and can’t wait to get back on stage: “The good thing about panto, the thing I enjoy, is just coming out on stage and seeing the kid’s faces light up, seeing all this magic in front of them, that’s Christmas.”
Also fresh from The Wizard of Oz is Jonny Weston who played the loveable Scarecrow, but this time he’ll be the sheriff’s sidekick, Archibald Runt. Jonny admits that he’s never played a pantomime villain before but is relishing the opportunity: “There’s so much fun you can play with a baddie… there’s so much you can experiment with.” And it’s safe to say he’s a huge fan of Lincoln: “It took me probably about five minutes to fall in love with this city… I can’t rate this city more, I think it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Lee Fanning, fresh from the award-winning production of Thief at the Edinburgh Fringe, will star as the Sheriff of Nottingham. This is Lee’s first pantomime but he can’t wait to hear the audience’s boos and hisses, and is looking forward to spending more time at the New Theatre Royal: “It’s absolutely stunning… I’ve been in a lot of theatres and not so many of them have got the character and charm this place has got, it’s just splendid. I’m really happy to be here.”
The role of Little John will be played by Jamie Bendy. Jamie grew up in Lincoln and has just returned after 18 months in Malaysia where performed as Titan in Megamind Rocks and starred in Welcome to Malaysia Matt Slay, a production he created and directed. But his first taste of a professional production was in the 2008/2009 pantomime Snow White at the New Theatre Royal: “Since then I’ve wanted to get back on the stage for panto at the New Theatre Royal, so here I am – a dream come true,” said Jamie.
No pantomime is complete without a Dame and this Christmas Paul Aitchison will star as Nurse Nora. Paul previously hosted the Crystal Maze Live in the West End and this will be his sixth pantomime season: “I’m going to have a lovely time. One of the joys of being an actor is that it’s the ‘funnest’ job in the world, and panto is the ‘funnest’ job within that career.”
Completing the cast is TV presenter Melinda Messenger as Fairy Stardust. Unfortunately Melinda had fallen ill and was unable to visit during the press launch but she sent a message to all who attended: “It’s such a shame I can’t be with you today but I’m so looking forward to appearing at such a beautiful theatre in Lincoln with an amazing cast… see you all in panto land soon.”
This year audiences coming to Lincoln’s longest running traditional pantomime can expect to see fantastic dance numbers, bespoke songs from cult classics to the latest chart toppers, plenty of wow moments and surprises, and of course, lots of audience participation.