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Robin Hood – Guildford Shakespeare Company – 13th Open-Air Season

GSC Robin Hood - (c) Matt Pereira
GSC Robin Hood – (c) Matt Pereira

I was a little worried for Guildford Shakespeare Company; their Press Night for Robin Hood is clashing with England’s first match in the World Cup. Would anybody else be coming this evening? I needn’t have worried, as I arrive at gorgeous Racks Close there is a good crowd winding their way up to the picnic area. Wanted posters for notorious outlaws line the route.

As there is no set script for Robin Hood, writer Ant Stones has written a new story, keeping the core details but adding new characters and expanding the parts of others. Marian is no bystander in this tale she has a voice, an opinion and can fight with the best of them. Two of the outlaws are also women but Robin, Little John, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale and, of course, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham remain.

The action begins as we are still finishing our picnic, a minstrel strolls amongst us singing songs about Robin Hood and his band of outlaws. Tom Jack Merivale has written some fabulous music and songs for this production and these together with Paula James’ (who plays Marian) beautiful voice really embellish the evening’s action.

Guildford Shakespeare Company are always really good at including children in the action and the minstrel makes sure that they are included in the exchange of banter. The crowd are gathered up and led to the site of the May Day festival in Nottingham where the celebrations are soon interrupted by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham who has captured one of Robin Hood’s gang and intends to execute her in front of the gathered festival crowd. Incredibly Robin manages to rescue Scarlet the outlaw, enraging the Sheriff and making him vow to find Robin and his gang wherever they are. We are then taken through to Robin’s secret hideout and a very welcome chair! Racks Close is the ideal location for a forest hideaway, being a shady wooded glade it doesn’t require much imagination to picture yourself in Sherwood Forest.

Neil Irish’s set design allows for additional action away from the camp by having a raised platform above which becomes Nottingham Castle and other secondary locations. Gavin Fowler’s Robin Hood looks pretty cool in authentic looking green costume, no embarrassing tights in this production. Gavin is a superb Robin, handsome, charming and a convincing fighter with staff, sword and bow and arrow. Chris Porter’s Sheriff is menacingly evil but Chris is able to poke fun at himself and his character is one of the most popular with the children in the audience. The archery contest is great, either Gavin and Chris are both gifted archers or some very clever trickery is going on here.

As usual, a fabulous evening’s entertainment and it is now official: Guildford Shakespeare Company is more entertaining than the World Cup!

4 stars

Review by Sally Knipe

This original adaptation has been written by GSC’s Associate Playwright, Ant Stones (Grimms’ Fairy Tales, The Wind in the Willows), and is directed by Richard Neale.

Staged in Guildford’s best kept secret – the enchanting green oasis of Racks Close (a former chalk quarry) – and featuring original music and songs by Tom Jack Merivale (Grimms’), we hope you can join us for what promises to be an unforgettable adventure with England’s greatest legend.

The cast features Gavin Fowler as Robin Hood, Chris Porter as The Sheriff, Sally Cheng as Scarlett and Paula James as Marian.

Robin Hood Gavin Fowler
Lady Marian Paula James
The Sheriff Chris Porter
Scarlett of Gamwell Sally Cheng
Little John James Sheldon
Friar Tuck Robert Maskell
The Prioress Sarah Gobran

Director Richard Neale
Writer Ant Stones
Designer Neil Irish
Original music and songs Tom Jack Merivale
Sound Design Matt Eaton
Assistant Designer Anett Black
Assistant Director Indiana Lown Collins
Voice Coach Sterre Maier
Producers SarahGobran/Matt Pinches

Robin Hood ~ 14-30 June ~ Rack’s Close
Love’s Labour’s Lost ~ 13-28 July ~ University of Law Gardens
Supported by realm and Charles Russell Speechlys

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