It’s a story known to everyone; brave Robin Hood and his merry band of outlaws robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. Throw in the obligatory rivalry with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and we have the beloved tale of one of the first anti-establishment heroes in Britain.
So why do another version of a story so well-thumbed? For the sheer joy of it, perhaps? Because there are stereotypes in the tale that are crying out to be broken by a predominantly female cast? Because you have access to the idyllic Abney Park Cemetery – quiet, peaceful and more greenery than you see in most cities, never mind in The City? All the above, it seems. And not just that but the opportunity to do the tale as a promenade, led by the bard Alan-a-Dale in a flowing fourth-wall breaking scenario that incorporates music, dance and a bit of slapstick.
Any re-telling of Robin Hood usually begs one initial question; is this a light-hearted interpretation or a serious dramatic version? The Valour of Robin Hood is certainly the former and is beautifully unabashed about it. A merry romp through the woods and through the tale.
Starting with a sing-song, audience participation is encouraged from the get-go and escorted by several of the cast, there is an immersive feel to the piece before the story proper has even begun and this is symptomatic of one of the best elements of this production; it’s obvious in every scene that the cast are enjoying themselves. And, as is so often the way, if the cast are enjoying themselves it’s easier for the audience to enjoy themselves too.
When the actual tale begins, we are presented with a number of short scenes in ranging locations that feel a little disconnected with each other but are linked by Alan-a-Dale’s guidance, patter and musical accompaniment in a way that works and keeps the continuity.
The setting for each scene is sparse (which is good for the flora and fauna of course), so it’s lucky that somebody built a chapel there that serves very well as the Sheriff of Nottingham’s castle and is a great opportunity to access the building – typically closed off to the public – and admire the first non-denominational cemetery chapel in Europe.
It’s not often that the venue is considered a deciding factor when choosing a production to see but when the production covers roughly a third of the cemetery over the course of the piece, it’s reassuring to know that it’s one of the quietest most picturesque places you could be. Overall, the walking distance isn’t massive (and there are chairs at most of the staging locations for those less steady on their feet) and it is a good opportunity to admire the setting.
In some ways, it’s a bold story to take on (how do you stand out amongst the myriad of interpretations out there already?) but, undaunted, 09 Lives have made it their own and offer not just production but an experience – a night to remember.
Review by Damien Russell
We all know who Robin Hood was. Or do we? In a new version by Amii Griffith THE VALOUR OF ROBIN HOOD tells one of the greatest English folk tales, told out in the elements in the leafy and mysterious environs of Abney Park. All the components of the long ago good vs evil myth are here. Evading capture by the Sheriff of Nottingham, great feats of archery, and getting into mischief and mayhem along the way and yet who was Robin Hood? Archer? Villain? Thief? Hero? This Outside Theatre interactive production is directed by Lil Warren and designed by Sarah Mercade, an evening for all the family.