As the title suggests, this is not the Robin Hood tale we've come to expect. Carl Grose's fresh take is part satirical comedy, part musical, and part drama with stage magic galore. Exploring who owns England, this story centers not on Robin Hood but on young Woodnut, whose Mother is killed prior to the start of the play, and whose father's incapacity to pay the most recent royal tax, sets off the aggression that serves as the main action of the piece.
Directed by Melly Still, the scenes shift in an instant, transitions accompanied by the swoosh of an arrow flying through the air. There is a broad approach to tone, which varies greatly throughout. What is consistent, however, is its diversion from the source material. There are many liberties taken with the characters from the canon of this beloved myth. In Grose's play, the King (exceptionally performed by Paul Hunter) takes the back seat to the scheming Sheriff Baldwyn (Alex Mugnaioni who is witty, clever, and in possession of perfect comedic sensibility), Maid Marian is referred to only as Marian and takes on the role of the ringleader of the forest folk. Robin Hood is depicted by three different actors in short recurring cameos for purely meta-theatrical comedic relief… Poking good fun at the many iterations of the role we've seen depicted in years past. While comedy underpins the majority of the play, there is a good deal of moralizing and some intense violence that occurs after the interval which would lead us to caution parents of younger children.
Jenny Moore's compositions are a combination of inventive electronic dance music and choral ensemble harmonies, at times dissonant, and at times dabbling with wailing. Zoe Spurr's lighting is subtle and effective, as the evening draws on and daylight departs, emerging thoughtfully. While the piece is broad, there is something to be said about having something for everyone here. Engaging and weighty enough for parents who understand the deeper elements of the narrative, and magically action-packed enough to hold the attention of their children, this evening in Regent's Park Open Air Theatre asks little and offers much.
Runs through at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre through 22 July 2023.
Review: Matthew Pierce Photos: Pamela Raith