by Lynn on January 18, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by David Farr

Directed by Gísli Őrn Gardarsson

Set by Börkur Jónsson

Costumes by Emma Ryott

Lighting by Ken Billington and Graeme S. Thomson

Sound by Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm

Choreography by Selma Björnsdóttir

Songs by Parsonsfield

Starring: Gabriel Ebert

Christian Lloyd

Euan Morton

Sarah Schenkkan

Izzie Steele

A rousing, athletic family entertainment about Robin Hood, that swashbuckler, who has his heart tamed by Maid Marion.

The Story.  It seems that legend of Robin Hood being a man of the common people by robbing the rich to give to the poor is just so much good public relations. The original Robin was a bit of a ruffian who robbed from the rich and kept the loot for himself and his fellow anti-social misfits. Until he met Maid Marion who changed his mind and heart.

In David Farr’s play Marion is the morally responsible daughter of the Duke of York who is away at the Crusades. His palace is being run by “monsters” (Marion’s word for them) so she flees to the forest to get away. She meets Robin Hood by chance and that meeting left both smitten, but of course neither told the other. She suggested that he rob from the rich and give the money to the poor. Robin had to think about that one.

Matters took a nasty turn when Prince John, the evil brother of King Richard, came calling to Marion’s castle wanting to woo her. Before that he put a heavy tax on people, ostensibly to help pay for the fighting in the crusades, and anyone who refused was either tortured or killed. Children were also threatened. Needless to say Marion didn’t like the guy but promised to marry him if he didn’t harm children.

The Production. With all due respect to the hard working, athletically-gifted actors, the real star of this show is Börkur Jónsson’s set. Leafy overhangs drop down from the flies; trees are on the far side and one shoots out from the top of the proscenium. The central part of the set is a massive, stage-wide, steep ski-slope of greenery. Every character makes his/her entrance at one point or another by sliding down the slope. There are strategically placed toe-holds so that characters can also scurry up the incline. Rectangular sections drop down from the slope providing straight platforms that represent the castle. Characters such as Prince John walk along the platform and pontificate to those below.

There is a bit of cross-dressing, disguise, intrigue and a lot of gymnastics. Characters never walk when they can run, flip, somersault and catapult themselves across the stage. Even Marion comes down from one of the platforms by holding on to the edge and flipping herself over onto the ground.

Athleticism and impressive gymnastics are a hallmark of director Gísli Őrn Gardarsson’s productions—certainly it was for Metamorphosis which played here earlier. His intention seems to be to present the story as a raucous, broadly performed cartoon of the folk tale. Interestingly when there are quiet moments in David Farr’s play the whole enterprise grinds to slow motion. Jokes fall flat between all that dead air. The physical humour is more successful in getting a laugh.

Gabriel Ebert is a lanky, rough-around-the-edges Robin Hood with boyish charm. As his Marion, Izzie Steele is diminutive and spunky. She is no pushover. As the dastardly Prince John, Euan Morton is dangerous and mean and therefore perfect. A character you love to boo.

Parsonsfield, a folk-country-rocky band, provides lively music (even they slide down the steep slope, instruments in hand) although I found that with the amplification of their instruments the lyrics are unintelligible.  Perhaps hearing the lyrics is not the point. It is toe-tapping music though. The Heart of Robin Hood is easy family fare.

Presented by Mirvish Productions in a co-production with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

Opened: Jan. 14, 2015

First opportunity to see it: Jan. 17, 2015

Closes: March 1, 2015

Cast: 17; 13 men, 4 women

Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.



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