Tuesday, October 3

Robin Hood: The Legend Re-Written – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

This show opened as part of the summer season at Regent’s Park Open Air theatre. It’s lovely venue that perfectly houses a story about a hero that gallivants through the forest. Which is why a retelling of the legendary tale of Robin Hood is the perfect tale for this summer season. This play takes a new twist on the classic story, as we delve into whether the outlaws can defeat the sheriff.

Robin Hood is a folktale of the underdog challenging the system, where he takes from the rich and gives to the poor. This new take written by Carl Grose challenges everything we know about the tale. But still pays homage to the various forms the original tale has taken in different ways throughout the play. We have different iterations of Robin Hood eager to save the day, but they only exist to be viewed by the audience and they don’t exist within the world of the play. These characters were a great injection of humour in this show.

Within this story we explore the highlighted role of other characters and Robin Hood turns out to be someone unexpected. The idea of turning this tale on its head is interesting in theory, unfortunately the execution of it left a lot to be desired.

This play had some issues of cohesion, a lot of different elements of storytelling were used but they did not work together. Mainly the use of singing where it was unnecessary, at some points the songs felt like they distracted from the story. The music overwhelmed the rest of the show at times, it was quite loud which meant even when there was singing, I couldn’t fully hear the lyrics. The music was beautiful; however I don’t think it added anything positive to this show.

Photo: Pamela Raith

The show was in two acts, with a major difference in pacing. The second act felt much longer even though it was shorter, and it dragged. However, the ending felt quite abrupt to me.

Something else that felt mismatched was the dialogue throughout the play, it was a mix between old-timey English and modern English when they wanted to add a comedic aside. Switching from these different tones felt jarring and distracted me. There were some other inconsistencies I noticed throughout the play. For example, the barons and sheriff believe women should not be involved in leadership or interested in it when talking about Marian, but Simpkins is a woman and is the right-hand man and enforcer for the Sheriff.

A lot of the characters felt one dimensional, even the character that was most prominent Marian, I felt as if we had no explanation for her decisions and her actions. One character that felt unnecessary and out of place was Gisburne, I understood his role in the story, but the outcome for his character was confusing and he felt unnecessary. His character felt cartoonish with a lot of different dance/movement pieces that felt out of place in the story. The character that worked the most in my opinion was the bumbling but bloodthirsty Sheriff Baldwyn. Alex Mugnaioni did a good job with making Baldwyn appear eccentric and his comedic timing was brilliant. The issues I have with the characters are not the fault of the performers, but a lack of solid characterisations within the text.

Some positives about the production I felt were the stage design by Chiara Stephenson, she managed to give the vibe of a forest onstage (which was aided by the lush trees and greenery on offer from an open air theatre) and used different levels to represent the difference between the upper class and the lower classes. The illusions used to represent arrows were fantastic, they would appear out of nowhere and the appearance was always smooth and on point.

I also really enjoyed the costuming by Samuel Wyer, particularly the use of distressed and styled Hi-vis police jackets to represent the Sherriff’s mean. The difference between the clothes of those of upper and lower classes was prominent and well done.

Overall, this show was an interesting take on the Robin Hood tale. Unfortunately, I think it suffers from attempting to do too much within its run time which makes it feel overstuffed with ideas but underdeveloped.

Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-written plays at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 22nd July. Tickets are available here: https://openairtheatre.com/

Reviewer: Zara Odetunde

Reviewed: 24th June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.