Musical; Maid Marian and her Merry Men Bristol Old Vic

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The Independent Culture
Maid Marian and her Merry Men, the musical, starts off as a panto in the usual heroic mould with Robin Hood centre stage; but Marian instigates a feminist revolt and takes over the show with the rallying cry, "Sexist git!" A battle ensues between Marian and a posse of women and Tony Robinson, representing the theatre management. Marian's show runs out of steam at the interval and Robinson, as the Sheriff of Nottingham, stages his own version in the second half.

Robinson, who has had a hand in the script and the direction, thinks he knows what kids like and, judging by the reception, he and his co-writers Mark Billingham and David Lloyd have got the mixture nearly right. Silly jokes, local jokes, political jokes, bawdy jokes, a barrage of feminist jokes, plots within plots, S&M in black leather, spectacular props, jolly songs, good gags and a cast of frenetic joggers. The whole show is presented with humour and any weaknesses are swamped by goodwill. Robinson oversees the proceedings like a jolly left uncle who hasn't even heard of new Labour.

Penny Layden as Marian has the task of playing a right-on feminist, while remaining friendly and human. She got the young audience on her side and held them there. Damian Matthews, a softy Robin Hood, got the sympathy vote. Maid Marian is an enjoyable romp, full of surprises, with a cast who never flag, and a premise worth thinking about.

To 4 May. Booking: 01179 877877

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