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Review: ‘Robin Hood: The Legend of The Forgotten Forest’ @ Bristol Old Vic

‘The days of greed are over, to any sheriffs in their castle your days are numbered!’, and with that warning the relevancy of Robin Hood is revived again by The Wardrobe Ensemble.

By Nadja Lovadinov, Arts Writer

‘The days of greed are over, to any sheriffs in their castle your days are numbered!’ And with that warning, the relevancy of Robin Hood is revived again by The Wardrobe Ensemble.

It was a boisterous performance that riled the audience with excitement - with elements of panto squeezed in, just in time for seasonal festivities. The Wardrobe Ensemble gifts conviviality and fun for everyone this Christmas.

The tale of Robin Hood is a familiar one, finding increasing prominence in film and theatre throughout the twentieth century. From Robin the Racketeer in the McCarthy Era to Robin the Romantic in blockbuster Hollywood films played by Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. The Wardrobe Ensemble’s comedic reconstruction follows Robin’s road to redemption.

Robin Hood robs plenty of references from previous adaptations, and the play becomes a celebration of the legend and its themes of social justice. Yet, what the Wardrobe Ensemble’s adaptation brings new, is the recognition of ‘unsung heroes’, a narrative that has become very familiar to audiences in the current pandemic. From Captain Tom to NHS staff, key workers and good friends, this play attempts to idealise the everyday Robins who don’t become icons in English folklore. A simple narrative that can be overworked, but is overcome by the play’s uplifting, feel good factor.

James Newton as the Sheriff of Nottingham is a highlight, wonderfully ridiculous as he is villainous. At a town hall meeting, the Sheriff presents political tidings of woe, rising taxes ,empty promises that ‘things are on the up’ and ineffective policies. Familiar?

Whilst revisionist folklore can fall into pointless pit of deja-vu, there was a sense of imminence and concrete importance to the performance’s critique of greedy sheriffs in their castles. As the Sheriff announces he is having a party (and the audience is not invited), Newton breaks the fourth wall with a suggestive expression. The audience’s laughter drowns the actors’ speech, given the political scandal revealed that morning (December 8) that a Christmas party was hosted at Downing Street last year, whilst the rest of the country were in lockdown. Robin Hood has not lost it’s edge.

Whilst Kerry Lovell is perfectly cast as the swash-buckling Robin Hood, the strength of the play truly lies in the collective. The audience revel in Robin Hood and her merry crew, with the newest member, jovial schoolboy JJ, stealing our hearts. Dorian Simpson's wonderful portray of JJ is sympathetic and sweet. The strength of the team lied in the dynamic heist scenes. Whilst the fight sequences don’t quite hit bullseye, the easy to follow smooth transitions bounce along with finger-snapping high spirits.

You will leave the theatre satisfied, and singing ‘everything I do, I do for you’ the whole night.

Featured Image: Epigram

What did you make of this new production of the classic tale?