Panto in Leamington: Robin Hood

Robin Hood and Maid Marian, poster from the 1880s.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia, released by them to the public domain.

Even in 1885 the subjects of pantomimes were similar to today. The Theatre Royal, Leamington, saw a version of Robin Hood performed. Some of the characters are familiar; we have Maid Marion [sic], Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck and more. No panto would be complete without the Sheriff of Nottingham, although here he seems to be a little hard-done by; he comes home unannounced to find two of Robin’s merry men trying to woo his maids, and is rewarded by being robbed. Very merry!

It’s a slightly unusual start, too. We begin at the home of a Demon, attended by his Imps. The general plot sees the Demon try to woo Maid Marion, with The Fairy Buttercup and Puck (a spot of merging of stories?) trying to stop him in his foul designs.

All is well in the end, of course, the Fairy saves the day and a bunch of harlequins and clowns appear at the end to sign everyone off in good cheer.

He’s behind you?

The Warwick Advertiser of January 2nd 1886 gives a report on the narrative; it also adds the traditions of characters such as Robin Hood played by a woman (in this case one Miss Freda Conway), but there’s little about how the audience responds to the panto. Any aficionados on panto history who’d like to fill me in? Should I be booing the villains in the 1880s?

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