The Heart of Robin Hood, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Straford-upon-Avon (4/5)

4.00

 

The greensward is a massive 40-foot high
slope in The Heart of Robin Hood, the
RSC's captivating new Christmas show.

The characters enter by sliding down the near-vertical back wall of Borkur Jonsson's set with an elating whoosh. Their other main route into the proceedings is by insertion upside down on ropes lowered from a lofty canopy of oak branches. Since the Company started performing on high-altitude thrust-stages, niftiness at dangling in a harness must have become virtually an audition requirement for actors at the RSC. And there's no one better at choreographing this form of suspense than Gisli Orn Gardarrson of Iceland's celebrated Vesturport outfit. Ending with a lyrical aerial twirl by the now-entwined hero and heroine, his is a Christmas production that, in the best possible sense, keeps things above the heads of young and old alike.

If the dominating slope approaches a 1:1 gradient, Robin Hood is on an equivalently stiff learning curve in David Farr's wittily revisionist new version. Looking a bit like a Joe Orton fantasy with his bare chest and laced-up leather trousers, James McArdle's blunt, Yorkshire Robin starts off as an emotionally arrested boy who heads a gang of ullulating thugs dedicated to self-interest. Then along comes Iris Roberts's winningly spirited, blonde-bobbed Marion who (shades of Rosalind in As You Like It) is forced to lead a double life. In the castle, she feigns betrothal to Martin Hutson's pervily psychotic Prince John. In the forest, she masquerades as Martin of Sherwood, spearhead of a rival, more caring-and-sharing bunch of thieves.
 

A bit too politically correct? Actually no, because there's lashings of irreverence (Little John is played a drily philosophical dwarf); some good gruesome gags (such as playing for time by playing puppets with the corpse of Guy of Gisborne) and a lovely fool in the burly shape of Olafur Darri Olafson's Pierre, a self-involved French fop (“”Green is not my colour”) who later quite gets off on faking “butch”. And there's a frizzy-haired dog who parps on a clarinet and wild boar who saws on a cello before it is removed as his innards during a ritual disembowelling.
 

There are also disturbing elements in the central story of the traumatising dangers facing the two children of a man who was hanged as a subversive for refusing to pay Prince John's fraudulent Holy Contribution Tax. For this reason, I think it would be safer to take children a little older than the 7 upwards suggested by the RSC. Otherwise, warmly recommended.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks