by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 11 January 2014.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 December.
Lively version of Sherwood in Bolton.
Wherever they end-up, the Christmas plays Elizabeth Newman directs each year at the Octagon tend to start in, or near, Bolton. So it is here, with a family of bored kids outlasting any attempts to keep them interested by parents who try being cheery until their efforts are worn away to frustration.
Suddenly, the children, supersoaker plastic water-guns at their sides – and enjoying giving audience members a soaking – find themselves in medieval times, alongside a Black Robin Hood, female Willow (sic) Scarlett and an Asian Maid Marian, strongly played with the courage and independence of a modern double agent by Krupa Pattani. If the children had been a few years older they could have staved off boredom writing an essay on diversity among the outlaw population of Sherwood Forest.
Fortunately none of this affects the story; it rather neatly runs alongside it, making this an experience for anyone, part of a shared English mythology. If it questions, it does so silently, leaving Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s script to make its point about leadership.
It’s one well-made for young audiences, and for those who leap to command as Marc Small’s Hood steps self-confidently into conflicts where he’s battered by Jamie Baughan’s good-natured Little John and bested by Barbara Hockaday’s Scarlett. No wonder then he ends up captured when he ventures into the Sheriff of Nottingham’s den for the archery contest designed to net him.
As time proceeds, Robin gradually learns to think, to plan, and to work with others. That includes the visitors from 21st-century Bolton, whose space-age toy weapons prove important in defeating the forces of medieval injustice. But the help is mutual; the show ends with Robin, bow drawn, standing ready to use his skill and all he’s learned to invigorate modern battles and campaigns against oppressors.
The language of Malcolm’s script could be more expressive at times, but he incorporates a neatly, yet not overly, villainous Sheriff, played with calculating self-interest and social callousness by Christopher Villiers. With its pace, humour and songs, performed by a reliable, energetic ensemble, Bolton’s Robin Hood flies swift and straight as an arrow.
Little John/Dad: Jamie Baughan.
Sir Edmund/Friar Tuck/King Richard: Chris Chamberlain.
Nell/Mum: Clara Darcy.
Willow Scarlett: Barbara Hockaday.
Maid Marian: Krupa Pattani.
Robin Hood: Marc Small.
Sheriff of Nottingham: Christopher Villiers.
Young Company: Raphael Collinson, Morgan Hartley, Pruthvi Khilosia, Joe Massey, Georgia Rogerson, James Scowcroft, Nina Simon, Abigail Westhead, Ellie Whitlaw/
Nicholas Brown, Ryan Burke, Leonardo Carlos, Luke Hope-Nixon, Pheonix Melia, Rosa Sanchez-Johnson, Courtney Sewastianow, Emma Smith, Reece Smith.
Director: Elizabeth Newman.
Designer: Amanda Stoodley.
Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Composer/Musical Director: Barbara Hockaday.
Movement/Associate director: Lesley Hutchison.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Luke Bailey.