The New Theatre’s devised comedy musical adds up-to-date humour and a Broadway twist on the British legend, following Robin Hood’s journey from crusader to heroic outlaw in the setting of Nottinghamshire. Directed by Jess Courtney and Chelsea Jayne Wright, and produced by Jake Leonard, this devised performance orders a large cast with flair and wit.
Divided lovers Robin (Peter Bradley, playing the character against type as petty and world-weary) and Maid Marian (Kat Tye, bringing spirit to the role) share a romantic duet, adding a touch of glamour to the surrounding comic commotion. Meanwhile, pantomime villains the Sheriff of Nottingham (Tom Hicks) and his dogsbody Guy of Gisbourne (Tom Tolond) plot to exploit money from the peasants and help Prince John (James McAndrew) usurp the English crown. It’s up to the Robin and his Merry Men to save the day, via big show numbers reworked for the play. Particularly enjoyable is Prince John’s turn at ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King’, in which he promises to steal from the poor, appropriate for modern-day coalition Britain. The baddies’ scenes are especially enjoyable, as the slimy Sheriff and the preening Prince attempt to woo Marian, under delusions of their charisma and attractiveness.
The performance, put together in just a few weeks, elicits laughs all round.
In a hilarious subplot, there is a sordid but somehow sweet passion between ‘Gizzy’ and Marian’s luridly-dressed Nurse (Ben Williamson, regaling us with his comic talents once again). Following Robin on his adventure are a sozzled Friar Tuck (portrayed with perfect comic timing by Greg Link) and a pitifully lovelorn Will Scarlett (endearingly played by Tom Selves), who guzzles a pot of ice-cream in his sorrow. The rest of the Merry Men (Phil Damms, Lyle Fulton, Pam McDuff and Hugh Purves, with green tights aplenty) take to fighting, beheading annoying farmers and robbing the rich with gusto – as long as their victims don’t wield a truncheon. There is able work by the chorus of Sian Beavan, Catherine Cunningham and Mitchell Masterson too, doubling as a variety of supporting characters.
The set is simple, with a small platform behind a gauze screen at the back of the bare stage, but the whole space is fully used by the large cast. More impressive is the lighting design, which contains an array of roving spotlights and colours. As well as the recorded music there is also a lively piano accompaniment by Nick Stevenson, who breaks out of his role to drolly interact with the actors.
The performance, put together in just a few weeks, elicits laughs all round. Faux-medieval speech is avoided and instead swearing and contemporary slang is combined with up-to-the-minute gags. It has a farcical nature, with actors jumping to stand in their spotlights, along with surreal touches including a lost Mormon. Moreover, the musical playfully acknowledges its theatricality, frequently breaking the fourth wall with two narrators (Emma-Louise Amanshia and Sam Greenwood) addressing the audience. The epic finale consists of a mash-up of different film franchise styles, and with the whole cast on stage it requires diligence to take in every detail of the action. Overall, this musical treat is a riotously fun way to end this year’s New Theatre season, so pull on your green tights and steal a ticket for the final performance if necessary.
Image by: Nottingham New Theatre via Google