by Laura Kressly
Everyone knows the myth of Robin Hood – a heroic forest dweller fights against injustice by stealing from the rich to help the poor in medieval Nottingham. Is there any truth is the story, though? Richard Hurford’s interpretation suggests Hood isn’t particularly ambitious and a bit shy; he just wants to hang in the woods with his mates. The real hero is Maid Marian, but she knows she won’t be taken seriously as a woman.
It’s a scenario that rings as true today as it does in the distant past. Hurford’s script is over-long and clumsy though, with the first and second halves’ storylines largely independent from each other in both style and content. They feel like two separate plays, and neither is fully developed.
Directed by newly-appointed AD Suzann McLean, the production has a large cast of children in training at the theatre, helmed by six professional actors. This a great capture of the power for theatre to bring together a local community, but the pros don’t always hold their ground. Ayanna Christie-Brown excels as a determined yet pragmatic Marian, complimented by the chilled yet charismatic Malachi Green as Hood. Gustavo Navarro nails the pantomime style as the Sheriff of Nottingham’s sidekick – but it’s the Sheriff who never manages to cut a convincing villain. The audience is confused by his lack of engagement and are largely unresponsive to dialogue that would normally elicit boos.
Lily Faith Knight is admirably resourceful with the set, constructing it entirely of recycled and repurposed materials. She proves her skills in the detailed, sculptural work that builds a knotty forest landscape. Jack Wills’ lighting helps cement a dark and brooding place of danger rather than an excessively cheery fairytale woodland.
There’s a wonderful spirit at work in this production – the children’s enthusiasm and effort is infectious despite the disappointing script and uneven professional performances. There are some great tunes, an inspiring character for young girls and the coming together of people of all ages to tell a story.
Robin Hood: The Arrow of Destiny runs through 22 December.
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