Growing up on the very edge of Nottinghamshire I felt particularly ‘tuned’ to the versions of Robin Hood, in particular Kevin Cosner’s Hollywood Robin and Alan Rickman’s deliciously evil Sheriff of Nottingham.
York Theatre Royal
Till Sept 2
We laughed as one in our local cinema when ‘Nottingham Castle’ appeared on screen. We knew the original had been mostly burnt down and the ‘castle’ is now a Victorian museum.
So we knew about transformed remains and accepting one thing as another for the sake of a story.
So it is with Robin Hood: Arrow of Destiny. With so many versions of the legend over 800 years, how could it be otherwise?
We are all Robin
So we meet a Maid Marian who is a far better archer than the hero she dreams of meeting, and who dresses in the “stolen identity” of Will Scarlet; Little John who is Robin’s mother; Robin himself who disguises himself as a bush when he first meets Marian in Sherwood Forest; and the great serpent, the spirit of the winter wood, who is the Sherriff of Nottingham’s mother-muse.
So all of us have the potential to change for the better (or worse); all of us can become different people. As Friar Tuck says, we are all Robin Hood.
When I first saw the trailer for this show, I thought we had a female Robin, or Robyn, Hood.
In fact Marian or ‘Will’ is the will behind the action: it is she who teaches Robin to shoot, who gives him the words to say in front of the Sheriff and who disguises herself to beat Guy of Gisbourn in the archery contest.
Ultimately she takes on her ‘expected’ role of pure maiden to save the people of Nottingham. She tells us throughout that “women are not expected to win” but shows us otherwise.
We cannot, and should not, believe our eyes.
The script is alive; I need to hear it though a second time to catch all the wit.
Joe Elkington as the Sheriff revels in his nastiness, as he should; he and his dim-witted nephew Guy of Gisbourne (Ed Thorpe) make a great double act.
The music and lyrics by Rob Castell are as modern and sharp as the dialogue; I loved the rap in The Legend of Robin Hood – exactly right for the first outlaws.
Siobhan Athwal carries the show as Marian but it was the theatricalities that stayed with me.
Having the Sheriff’s bodyguards and Robin’s band of men played by the young cast is inspired. They are a talented group, and bring great energy to the production.
The use of white-masked puppets as the villagers, the Chinese-dragon-like ravenous Wyrmwood, most of all the beautiful representation of the Oak King (stunningly voiced by Jo Servi) made this more than a clever, funny musical for the family.
It runs for the rest of this month, until 2nd September. Go and see it while you can. I will be going again.