Winterville 2014 + Robin Hood panto at Victoria Park | Event review

Ho Ho No…it’s that time of the year again! Days get shorter, colder and everyone starts buzzing like bees in a hive in a frenetic race against time. That is because Xmas is fast approaching but as usual nobody is ready for it yet. Although preparations for the festive season officially started a good while ago, our modern, capitalised world has turned people into working machines with such tight schedules that it’s hard to get some respite so the hunt for gifts becomes a desperate hurried quest – go tell the Three Wise Men.

It is nonetheless a very special period, whether you like it or not and in spite of the terrible happenings that keep making the news daily, everything gradually develops a different tone. The magical atmosphere feels so inevitably infectious that even the toughest of hearts will melt in front of all those honey-sweet images of affection that this holiday brings. If anything, it’s the perfect excuse to show your darlings how much you love them and to spend some quality time together… or at least it should be.

The business machine never stops and the shadow of the turnover is constantly impending. So here comes to London a “new festive experience”. Forget about good ol’ Winter Wonderland, now too mainstream… Winterville, in Victoria Park, is the alternative destination in town. Claiming to be the “antithesis of corporate Christmas theme parks”, this new fairground proudly hosts a series of markets and attractions as well as many activities and events for all ages.

Among these, a Robin Hood pantomime devised for little ‘uns and grown-ups alike. In the Spiegeltent, produced by the Tour de Force theatre company, a talented cast adapt the heroic outlaw’s famous story to the 21st century. For about an hour the actors amuse their audience not only by reciting but also by singing, dancing and playing most of the music that serves as a background for some scenes.

Besides the versatility of the performers, other strong points of the show are its humorous slapstick and the direct involvement of the spectators, particularly the kids. As a matter of fact not only they will keep jumping off their seats screaming to cheer or boo the characters’ good and bad deeds respectively, right at the turning point some children are invited to take to the stage and actively participate to the development of the story. Interesting are also the aforementioned modern twists given to the tale, as Robin Hood has become a vegetarian and Maid Marian seems like the perfect feminist not only for rebelling to an arranged marriage but also for turning into a seductress.

Surely the show is what it is and there have been complaints both about the security of the venue and the nonchalance with which the parents let their offspring roam freely just as if they were deer in that very Sherwood forest. However, the play is fun so unless you are the Grinch, it will make you laugh.

What to do after a heart-filling panto? There’s plenty of options to choose from. You can start by stuffing your belly at the Food Hall with quality, fresh produce to suit anyone’s taste. The stalls look crammed and unsurprisingly there are queues pretty much everywhere, but the whole thing is actually well organised.

Once the stomach is satisfied, you may want to wander through the markets spread all over the place. From the outside they aren’t particularly impressive but you will find the real deal when you get in. Lots of local artists have contributed to creating wonderfully displayed exhibition centres for their crafts – more than often items of the most unusual kind, not for everyone to buy but definitely awe-inspiring. Try the Bizarre Bazaar, the name says it all.

Why not finishing off by burning some calories? Kids will specially enjoy their dedicated Quarter with tailor-made entertainment while everybody else will like taking a spin at either the ice rink or the roller disco.

Whether you fancy experiencing the cold weather or you’d rather wrap up and get cosy, Winterville has it all. Plus, it’s free to enter so don’t miss out.

Verdict: ••••

Winterville 2014 is on until 1st January 2015 at Victoria Park, for further information visit here and here for the panto.

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