The True Adventures of Marian and Robin Hood
The Barn Theatre, Cirencester 21st NOV – 31 DEC. REVIEW by Tara Perez
Having enjoyed last year’s Christmas production so much, I turned up at the Barn Theatre for the opening preview on Monday with huge anticipation of another Festive blockbuster.
Writer Alan Pollock returns for his fourth Christmas production, following last season’s, The Brothers Grimm Present: Cinderella, which was named as one of the UK’s best Christmas family shows of 2021 by the Observer. Dylan Townley is also back as composer and musical director, along with Francesca Goodridge, as director, so my expectation levels were sky high and believe me, like with every other Barn show, it didn’t disappoint!
The True Adventures of Marian and Robin Hoodopened to a packed auditorium and began with a “bang.” I was told that they had some amazing special effects and magical projection and within the first few seconds you were drawn in and immersed in the world of magic.
The front stage was veiled with a thin gauze curtain that replicated a darkened forest. Immediately, hundreds of starry gold specs of projections floated around like fireflies before converging to form a golden archery target which explodes into a million glittery pieces from a magic arrow that Marian has just fired.
Music strikes up and the feisty Marian, played by Izzy Neish bursts onto the stage singing and rapping the story introduction. We see that Marian is anything but the shrinking violet with no shortage of magic powers to boot. As she says, “You may think you know the story…” but this is definitely not the Robin Hood version that you will be expecting.
The gauze veil is drawn back to reveal a beautiful bohemian style set of wooden platforms, rope swings and trees in an evergreen forest backdrop. Cleverly designed by Alfie Heywood it allows the actors to express themselves and have fun with their surroundings as they act out their parts.
Musical Director Dylan Townley’s clever compositions help “narrate” the production beautifully, and the eight actor musicians seamlessly interchange instruments playing a range of catchy foot stomping melodies and folk tunes. Alan Pollock’s dialogue is also very funny, with regular eruptions of laughter from audience members young and old.
Francesca Goodridge’s direction keeps everything pacy and all eight actors bring and energy and pace to the production that doesn’t let up until the end.
The Outlaws played by Lauren Ava-Thomas as Little John, Rachel Hammond as Alan a Dale, Emily Panes as Much the Miller, and Theo Diedrick as Will Scarlett bring a light-hearted witty buffoonery to their performances and no shortage of great skill and energy in acting out their parts while leaping around playing instruments. Catrin Mai Edwards on harp, as the mysterious forest spirit, the Green Man adds another magical dimension to the proceedings.
Alex White is the perfect counter point as Robin Hood to the all skilful Marian, as the somewhat awkward, but loveable leader of his forest misfits. For me though, the standout performance was from Ethan Reid, as Odo, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The consummate villain, he acts out the part with aplomb.
The play is truly immersive and hilariously funny with regular forays from the cast into the isles, which were often accompanied with audience involvement. Watch out for the Jugglers of Zaragoza when they come among you, you’ve been warned!!
Stunning costumes by the Barn wardrobe department of Denise Cleal, Marta Leskard and Bridget Griffiths, incredible lighting by Jessica Brigham, projections by Ben Collins and sound from Harry Smith made this Christmas production the most spectacular I’ve seen at the Barn yet. A brilliant, laugh a minute, musical treat that left everyone in the festive mood. A real family pleaser that will have everyone beaming from ear to ear.
2022 has been an amazing journey for the theatre and those of us that have been lucky to see their incredible productions this year. I for one can’t wait for their big reveal on the 1st December when we’ll see what excitement we have in store for 2023.
An absolute five star tour de force!
20 shows have already sold out, so be quick! Book early to ensure you get the best seats for this much talked about show.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip to the Barn.
Family tickets from as little as £7.50 per person (plus booking fee). To book your tickets go to barntheatre.org.uk or call Barn Theatre box office on 01285 648255.
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