Review by Shibley Ahmed
It’s not often we celebrate the exploits of bandits, swindlers and overall criminals but that’s the case when describing a certain archetypal English hero and his band of “Merry Men”. Laced with a live bluegrass soundtrack and a multifaceted acrobatic theme we witness as folk music meets folklore in David Farr’s latest classic adaptation, “The Heart of Robin Hood”.
As the title suggests, this particular remake explores the softer side of our protagonist. Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus
The relationship between Gabriel Ebert’s Robin Hood and Marion portrayed by Izzie Steele is the primary focus; however tribal allegiances and reservations to conform to social status play a significant part in framing the story.
While the audience arrived to take their seats we were welcomed with what would be the first of many songs from folk Rock band ‘Parsonsfield’ that instantly set the tone for what would become a very enjoyable two hours. It was quickly apparent that director Gisli Örn Gardarsson wanted this production to take a more lighthearted feeling. Nothing drove that point home more than the set design. The first thing that strikes you visually is a giant grassy field that curves itself up to the rafters. We would witness actors running, climbing and sliding their way down it. The method in which this creative structure adds to the experience is integral and serves not only to showcase the athleticism on show but also a depth of field that would otherwise be implied.
The story, much of which is set in medieval Sherwood Forest follows Robin and his gang of misfits as they discuss what virtues best suit their type of plundering. Jeremy Crawford puts forth a workman-like performance with his role as Little John, as does Christian Lloyd who’s rendition of Pierre (Marion’s right hand man) bridges the ferocity of the forest with the humorous antics that fill the stage.
Like any great tale, this one comes complete with a cast of villains led by pompous Prince John (Euan Morton) who will stop at nothing to wed, let’s say a less than enthusiastic Marion. Along with his lead henchman Gisborne (Paul Essiembre) they ensue to create a backdrop for Robin Hood’s quest to win the heart of the his new-found love and in the process, cracking away the rugged exterior he has always kept as armour.
Although this version of the classic was more “Men in Tights” than “Prince of Thieves” there never was an expectation otherwise. Sure there were the technically unflinching bouts of swordplay and ostentatious displays of darkness but in the end, this was an energetic, fun filled re-creation. The interaction between the characters and the band, the whimsical stage exits through the trap doors and the occasional audience interaction…we were given an equal measure of grit and charm through to the final curtain and I for one thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Heart of Robin Hood is at the Royal Alex until Mar. 29th. Call 416-872-1212