THE BALLAD OF ROBIN HOOD
by Greg Freeman.
Southwark Playhouse (The Large) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 26 December 2015.
1pm 3, 10 Dec.
3pm 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 22-24, 26 Dec.
5.30pm 24 Dec.
7.30pm 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22, 23, 26 Dec.
9.15pm 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19 Dec.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 November.
Southwark comes up with yet another surprise, and success, for Christmas.
There’s a quiverful of Robin Hoods this Christmas. But it’s unlikely any, whatever their virtues, will have the freewheeling spirit of Greg Freeman’s story, adeptly staged by Annabelle Brown for Tacit Theatre Company.
It springs from 200+ ballads which told their own tales, in varying moods, of a hero who might never have existed. Ballads formed a popular way of spreading stories – the peddler Autolycus has a stock in The Winter’s Tale. Often telling hyped-up versions, they were forerunners to newspapers. And Freeman has fun with the opportunism and partiality of these early journalists. Though she gives nothing away, Robin knows he has no chance of being sung about fairly by Ellen Chivers’ Troubadour.
Singing, dancing, juggling and merriment welcome us to the Southwark tavern where the action’s essentially set. Robin has been taken prisoner by the Sheriff of Rutland, who hopes this will lead to better things – he’s set his sights on running Norfolk (Nottinghamites who feel they’re being robbed as Yorkshire was by Leicester over Richard III’s cadaver should await Freeman’s final scene to make their blood boil).
The Sheriff’s stymied by the tavern regulars failing to execute his order and fetch back-up from north of the river (the bridge toll being one excuse). During this stand-off, events leading to Robin’s capture unfold.
It isn’t only a load of wit; there’s action too as matters proceed. Thankfully; because while the verbal humour’s sharp, there are a lot of matinees. Awareness of issues behind current news stories drives much of the laughter and that can’t always be relied on among younger audiences attracted by the title. But the stick fights and chases, or insults to, and humiliation of, the Sheriff can go down a treat with any age.
Brown, aided in the several combat sequences by fight manager Ronin Traynor, gives the whole a rapid flow to which the players capably and selflessly contribute. It’s a joyous show, delightfully individual, one not to miss this Christmas. And if the voiceover that booms-out in the closing moments isn’t instantly recognisable, a glance at the cast list should provide the answer.
Cast: Dora Rubenstein, Ellen Chivers, Joel Mellinger, Owen Findlay, Oliver Ashworth, Rosalind Blessed, Tom Daplyn.
Director/Composer: Annabelle Brown.
Designer: Giulia Carisi.
Lighting: Leo Steele.
Sound: Elle Wahlström.
Fight director: Ronin Traynor.