Poor people lie at the heart of the Robin Hood legend although they usually get lost when the tale suffers the pantomime treatment. Greg Banks’ engaging, intelligent version begins and ends with the poor – and as a certain charismatic orator is reported once to have said, they are with us always. The poor who open and close this show are hungry, homeless and cold and they could be anywhere at any time in history. It is they who act out a four-hander ensemble retelling of Robin Hood, improvising their props as they go along. The device isn’t original, of course, but it works to excellent effect here by putting a fresh, disturbingly topical, spin on the story.
Rebecca Killick, lithe and diminutive is one of those actors who lights up the stage. A lively mover (she shins up a rope without knots) and sweet-voiced singer, she presents a feisty, fresh Marion (among other roles) and has a delightful knack of smiling as she sings. Stephen Leask is splendid as camp Prince John, decent Friar Tuck and red capped Will Scarlet and he does a nice little turn with an imaginary, but vociferous, dog before the show starts. Peter Edwards, is equally versatile as Robin Hood and other parts while Nik Howden gives us an utterly hateful Sheriff of Nottingham who leaps in and out of other roles so adeptly that you barely notice it’s the same man.
The simple songs (by Thomas Johnson), with infectiously muscular choreography, have a distinct whiff of the folksy 1960s about them and are accompanied by a fine three-piece band – all female which is a refreshing change. The band is placed on a small dais in a corner of the intimate auditorium configured in the round within the venue’s eponymous oval shape. Hannah Wolfe’s set consists mostly of sawn off trees and logs which represent the forest and obstacles of various kinds.
It’s a chirpy, physical show with seamless ensemble story telling and some very slick switches. It pulsates along with admirable energy and verve. The pacing is good too. I think everyone in the room is surprises when Nik Howden leads a lyrical quartet in a beautifully nuanced falsetto The fights (directed by Tom Jordan) are impressve too, especially given how close the actors are to the audience.
I don’t ever recall seeing a show which has been sponsored by a school before. Well done King Edward’s School Bath where staff clearly understand the extraordinary but immeasurable power of drama and theatre.