“a thoroughly entertaining and endearing production”
Foot of the Hill’s production of ‘Marian: The True Tale of Robin Hood’ is a delightfully goofy, gender-switching retelling of an ancient, well-known classic. This cast does a fantastic job of dusting off any cobwebs which may have lingered on this storyline, using modern and outrageously funny interpretations to breathe new life into these age-old characters.
The plot is more-or-less centred around Alanna Dale (Megan Ratcliffe), a talented archer and aspiring member of the Merry Men, who also doubles as a narrator of the play; Ratcliffe presents both personas beautifully, and the audience has no trouble distinguishing between them. In a nutshell, the plot follows Alanna’s induction into the Merry Men, catalysing mass hilarity in the form of chaotic fight scenes and unlikely romances. Her love interest “Will” Scarlett (Amy Lees) is portrayed with a silly hypermasculinity that also provokes much laughter from the audience. Lees and Ratcliffe create an entertaining relationship dynamic, capturing the homoerotic tension superbly, in spite of some slightly awkward kiss scenes which I feel could have been exploited to ramp up the silliness of their situation. However, I might add that the decision to use ‘Romantic Flight’ from ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ to complement Alanna and Will Scarlett’s relationship was nothing short of artistic genius; the same goes for the rest of the soundtrack choices, such as the medieval version of ‘Hips Don’t Lie’. The portrayal of Robin Hood/Marian’s (Saachi Bajaj) double life is as deft as that of Alanna’s, and a primary source of comedy. Bajaj imbues her character with a wry, satirical sense of humour which especially goes hand-in-hand and contrasts wonderfully with the loud and loveable Little John (Grace Heron), undeniably an audience-favourite.
There are many other noteworthy performances in this production: Ella-Rose Vella captures a sexy and conniving Lady Shirley, who artfully manipulates several susceptible men into getting what she wants; the Sheriff (James Strand) – one of these unfortunate men – who is also hilariously hypermasculine and creates a witty dynamic with the Lady Shirley; the corrupt and promiscuously “holy” Friar Tuck (Rowan Sutton) is another obvious fan-favourite. His brooding demeanour and riotous sexual interactions with Lady Shirley manage to emanate power and goofiness all at the same time, controlling the stage. However, the cherry placed on the top of this play is definitely Luke Mallon’s fabulous portrayal of Prince John, a prime example of epic comic timing and stage presence, managing to convincingly depict a man who is both camp and a misogynist… bravo! One could go as far as to say that Mallon’s performance is somewhat reminiscent of Johnathan Groff’s King George III in the musical ‘Hamilton’,
There is a slight shift in tone in the second act, shifting some focus away from the comedic elements of the plot and choosing to broach some prevalent, worldly issues such as the use of gendered pronouns and the perception same-sex relationships. This could have been explored further to provide more contrast to the hilarity, but it was a nice break from the laughter. A few issues can be found in the entries and exits of the characters which created a slight disconnect between the scenes; there seemed to be a sort of dependence on the lighting to set the scene in motion, which could have been prevented if the cast were in character the moment they entered the room, even in darkness. However, this in no way detracted from the performance as a whole and can be easily sorted through some exaggerated physical acting, to make it all the more convincing.
All in all, this is a thoroughly entertaining and endearing production, complete with frenzied fight scenes, hilariously dim-witted guards, sexual innuendos of a Shakespearean calibre, and of course the wonderful Merry Men (who are mostly women). I urge a visit to Kenworthy Hall to have an easy laugh and a well-deserved escape from the summatives!
By Charles Moscrop
This production is performing at Kenworthy Hall, St Mary’s until the 18th February
Photo Credits: Foot of the Hill