Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Sometimes it's good to go into something with very few expectations. Such is the case with The Heart of Robin Hood, currently running at the Royal Alexandria Theatre

Now, I am of course familiar with the Hood, from movies, TV, comics, anime etc but I can't recall every seen him strut around the stage. The Hood's previous appearences in media have covered a broad spectrum of presentation, to action to historical drama to comedy. This presentation clearly falls into the last category

The Heart of Robin Hood is hilarious. There are many laugh out loud moments in the production and a lot of the humour edges into Monty Python territory; a few time if I closed my eyes I swear Michael Palin was on stage. What makes it Monty Python is that the humour is mixed in with some rather realistic representations of life in the middle ages; there is torture, murder, death and a bounty put on the head of children. Yet, it all remains really funny


There have been Robin Hood musicals before but this is not a musical .. well it is ... but it's not. There are one of two occasions where the characters sing but most of the music is provided by the fine roots band Parsonfield. They are an active part of the production, appearing on stage. At one point, when a villain is just bent on hanging someone it is suggested "take the band" Very Monty Python

Parsonfield and their music serves as a kind of Greek chorus but the play employs another classical theatre device, the narrator. Christian Lloyed plays Pierre, Lady Marion's music instructor. In more classic theatre devicery (yeh I just typed that, live with it) Pierre (as well as Marion) have to go in disguise and pretend they are other people which leads to much jocularity

Lloyd is very very good as is everyone in the cast. Paul Essienbee is a standout as Guy Gisborne, being incredibly malicious and hilarious at the same time. Izzie Steele plays Marian and infuses the character with strength and is more than up to the physical requirements of playing the classic "woman disguised as male" role

Another important character in this production is the stage, and the staging. The Hear of Robin Hood is presented on a stage with a huge ramp that starts up at the lights and slopes down to the floor. The actors run up and down this ramp, representing moving from one location to another. Openings can appear in the ramp and sections slide out of it, allowing characters to walk out over the stage below. This is particularly effective when representing characters residing in castles or looking down at the populace

The set also included a huge "oak tree" hanging from the ceiling, extending well out into the audience and another tree on stage proper where Robin hangs out and has his morning latte. There is also a "pond" on stage that characters fall in and out of, it has real water in it. There is another opening in the stage, a hole that opens up and which characters are generally tossed in to at their demise. The chant of "into the hole, into the hole" became a common refrain

This is an incredibly physical production. Cirque de Soleil is living in Sherwood Forest. There is ribbon work, there is a hoop and there is an genuinely hilarious scene where a "dead" character is manipulated like a flesh and blood marionette .. and oddly, it isn't Marion ...

I'll give you a minute

There is a lot of stuff happening in this play or, as they say, a lot of "business" Sometimes that makes for an uneven production but it all works here. Mostly it works because the play does not at all take itself seriously. It's a lark and it makes for a great way to pass a couple of hours

So the next time you're in the woods, keep an eye open for gender bending Ladies, archers in the trees and acrobats with serious knife skills

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