Sunday, October 2

Bow & Arrow: The Ghost of Sherwood – Epstein Theatre

There’s a saying in elite army regiments: big boys’ games, big boys’ rules, and tonight City Theatre stepped up to the big stage but sadly, despite passion and well-meaning, it didn’t come off.

Set in the days of Robin Hood (Shaun Herr) and Maid Marian (Alex Rochford), we were almost halfway in before the plot was revealed with ghost hunters Bow (Rebekah Jayne Moreland) and Arrow (Johnny Sedgwick-Davies) having not paid their taxes to caretaker Sheriff Maxwell (Graham Lyne) who is supported by some oddball characters in Gob (Louis Cashin-Harris), Miss Thorn (Anna Chan), and Ursula (Dee Patricia). So far so bad but lining up for the goodies are King Lincoln (Leo Hewitson) and his niece Princess Elle (Lydia Pearl), yet still questions remain unanswered: will Friar Tuck (Sean Campbell) be fulfilled? Will returning Mistress Cage (Gemma Harrison) take control of Sherwood once and for all?

Whilst I would commend the energy and enthusiasm of the cast and their obvious chemistry from working together on recent productions with the company, much of the audience, predominantly made up of family and friends, seemed more interested in their phones and loud conversations, and whilst there was a lot of titillation and laugh out loud moments, even for a self-proclaimed adult comedy you can have too many nob gags and choreographed dildos.

Writer and director Barry Levy has, can and will do better: perhaps a separation of roles for starters would provide such much-needed impartiality that could have tightened this up for the good. Or, as someone once advised me: never ask an actor what they think of your writing, they’ll love it no matter what as all they want to do is perform.

There is an array of talent in this cast, but this was not the vehicle for it. Sedgwick-Davies and Cashin-Harris do panto and slapstick well, but I think they’ve got more to offer; Campbell and Harrison, both new to me, were the standouts of the evening and I look forward to their future work.

There was good choreography from Pearl and Patricia that was more hit than miss in the various routines with good ensemble support from Ciara Strawson, Georgia Lomas, Nikita Gray, and Scott Lewis. Unfortunately, the tech was unbalanced, with music frequently overpowering voice, and further hindered by mic issues so we often couldn’t hear Levy’s lyrical adaptations in support of the scene, although the staging necessary at this kind of venue was also notable by its absence. Perhaps this was a venue too far and the more intimate locations of previous productions would have worked better as well as supporting multiple performances beyond the single night offered here.

Turning to the venue – and at the risk of upsetting some close acquaintances – it did little to help. Whilst I appreciate drinks and sweets make the money, there was far too much background unwrapping noises combined with several spilt pints that at one point made me wonder if something else was going to be spilled. Equally, whoever schedules a planned fire alarm test in the interval of a production on a Friday night in Liverpool needs shooting: we were evacuated onto the streets outside and without the insight of this being a test, not everyone bothered to return.

Community lies at the heart of City Theatre, but this felt more like the public bar of days gone by, a theatrical experience in its own right, but surely not the intention here: performed in the wrong venue and the venue was wrong – stick to your roots City Theatre and just do what you do well.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 27th May 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★