Review: A Tale of Robin Hood

By Tom Barry

A swashbuckling adventure for all the family.

Not Cricket Productions’ dramatic retelling of the exploits of Robin Hood cavorts across Upstage Theatre’s stage this week, with a fresh spin on a classic tale. Murder and intrigue abound in Nottinghamshire, from the great castle of Nottingham to the forest of Sherwood, as factions vie for control of the region and the new Sheriff, even more dastardly than the last, tightens his iron grip. This story is a brand new adventure written and directed by Joel Bates, who weaves together several recognisable narratives from the old stories of Robin and his merry men to create an original tale, with special care taken to expand on the role played by the female heroes so often left by the wayside.

Children are sure to revel in the clash of good against evil, with characters such as Robin, Maid Marian, Little John and Friar Tuck given room enough to establish themselves as more than hyperreal archetypes. There is enough edge, enough darkness here to raise the stakes and engage adults as well as youngsters. The production excels in atmosphere, combining lights, sound effects and music to set the scene, and the actors are clearly having such fun playing their parts that you cannot help but be swept along with them. Gabriel Elston’s Robin possesses enough earnest gravitas to establish him as the moral heart of the story without seeming moralistic; a true hero. His counterpart Marian, interestingly begins as a misguided antagonist, driven by a thirst to avenge the murder of her father. Her journey towards redemption spurs on the rest of the action to its eventual climax.

robin hood
Gabriel Elston’s Robin, Katie Lansdale’s Scarlet and Guy Matthew’s Little John

The play benefits from a good balance of exposition to action, with regular clashing of swords providing injections of energy without which the show would sag. Other than Marian’s moral complexity, the characters are as you’d expect; the heroes are heroic, the villains villainous, and every principal performer displays enough panache to do justice to these beloved denizens of folklore. An enjoyable evening all round, especially suitable for children seeking a more visceral theatrical experience.

A Tale Of Robin Hood, Not Cricket Productions, Upstage Centre, 41 Monkgate, York.

Playing Wednesday 6th, Thursday 7th and Friday 8th at 7.30pm; Saturday 9th at 2pm and 6pm.

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