Writers: Le Navet Bete and Mark Laville
Director: Mark Laville
Reviewer: Hannah Stamp
The classic tale of the lovable hero of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood, gets an inventive makeover in the Barbican Theatre’s production Robin Hood and His Merry Men. Sword fights, archery and medieval news broadcasts combine to twist the ancient legend we know and love into something new and surprising.
The south west-based troupeof clowns Le Navet Bete has done an amazing job of not only devising this unique production but also in portraying the vast number of rôles between the five of them. A slightly more cowardly Robin Hood than we are accustomed to still manages to be both charming and, of course, the perfect archer. The surprise of the show is perhaps the usually weaker Lady Marian transformed beyond the rôle of damsel in need of rescue and into the unlikely hero of the tale, swooping in to rescue her man from the evil Sheriffof Nottingham. Her insistence on behaving like a true modern woman certainly makes a refreshing change from the pantomime women we usually face as either comically ugly or helplessly beautiful.
The Barbican Theatre is fast establishing itself as a leader in pantomime fun after previously successful productions of The Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Carol. The laughter continues on in fine form here with a delightful scene involving a paddling pool drowning and another portraying a ballet dancing deer. Particular effort has been made to include the audience more regularly than is common, with fruit and vegetable throwing, an archery competition and the recruitment of some eager merry men. This is particularly delightful to younger audience members, who are clearly the main targets of the majority of the comedic moments.
Fear not, however, mums and dads can still look forward to a few carefully placed jokes. Think sparkly gold underpants and a few tasteful digs at Scotland. The addition of local news broadcaster Natalie Cornah as The Cornerstone of News and Truth will also be a welcome familiarity to many of the adults in the audience and gives the ancient story a decidedly modern twist.
The only disappointments to some might be the absence of big musical numbers and dance routines, starry costumes and stage changes. The set design is certainly eye-catching and, although it doesn’t change throughout the story, some clever lighting and moving props do help to keep things interesting. The classic boo/hiss moments we expect from pantomimes are largely missing and the opportunity for a good old sing-along doesn’t seem to appear. However, to many this will only add to the appeal and provide something new and refreshing for wearied pantomime viewers.
Despite a few traditional moments left wanting and a heavy emphasis on the silliness, this is still a fun and welcome retelling of a classic tale that will be sure to keep families entertained and laughing this Christmas.
Runs until 10 January 2016 | Image: Contributed