The Trials of Robin Hood is the most pleasurable experience I have had in a theatre. Where else do characters literally put you in your seat? Where else can one be knighted by a King during intermission? The theme of childlike fun and adventure is established from the outset, and does not leave until the show is over. Directed by Ceris Thomas, and produced by John McKenzie, the London Community Players’ holiday offering is the perfect choice for a season which is supposed to be filled with wonder and happiness. The play offers the story of Robin Hood with which we are all familiar, as well a couple of slightly alternative presentations of the well-known narrative.
The show begins with the classic version, in which Robin Hood (the impeccable Sean Brennan) and his Merry Men rob from the rich to give to the poor, and restore order to England under the greedy usurper Prince John (Andrew Richardson). Robin Hood himself, the stout and lusty yeoman is telling the story before King Richard (Mark Speechley), who is presiding over the trial. The scene is delightfully modernized, and the fact that there is rarely a fourth wall makes the experience unlike any other telling of Robin Hood you will ever see.
Once Robin Hood has recounted his version of events, King Richard opens up the floor to others who recall the events slightly differently. Maid Marian (Ashley Berklemans) is the first to volunteer, and Robin Hood is forced to sit on the sidelines in horror as his story is retold as one in which he is helplessly and pathetically in love with Marian. Thus enters Lovelorn Robin Hood (Ethan Butler) and his Merry Women. In this version Robin Hood is so immersed in his love for Marian, he is able to do little but weep for his lost love. Butler offers a brilliant performance, and Marian’s tale is the highlight of the show.
Once Marian is finished, the honourable Sheriff of Nottingham (John Darnell) takes his turn to retell the tale as one in which Robin Hood is an utter buffoon, stealing from the rich to give to himself, and prevent the magnanimous Prince John from saving England. With the Sheriff’s telling enters Silly Robin Hood (Noah Marcus) and his Vicious Men. The Sheriff’s story is humorous look at the other side’s version, if factually questionable.
Throughout the show there is a revolving door of actors, sometimes being forcibly replaced, or in the case of Guy of Gisborne (Patrick Brennan), simply refuse to participate in what they deem an unreliable version of events. The transitions between both actors and stories are seamless, and the credit is to be given to all involved. The set is clearly meant to remind one of a circus tent, and like any good circus the show involves a variety of acts, and non-stop entertainment. Audiences should be lining up to see this production, but I urge them to heed Robin Hood’s words; when they go, go lustily.
The Trials of Robin Hood will be playing from December 3rd to December 20th. To purchase tickets, check out Palace Theatre for more information.