The Edinburgh Fringe is generally renowned for the weird and wonderful. I’m prepared to expect the unexpected and brace myself for the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve seen classic children’s tales butchered and traditional songs remixed into hellish ballads. In fact, it had got to the point where I was almost reluctant to see any ‘classic’ titles for fear of having my childhood memories ruined.
It was therefore an absolute joy to attend Robin Hood, as created by the Manhattan Children’s Theatre. They brought the story of Robin Hood alive in exactly the right way. There was romance, fear, intrigue, and comedy – all delivered at a fast and energy filled pace.
The show followed the familiar plot; the people of Nottingham were living in fear of the sherif who had enforced high taxes and ruled by fear. Robin Hood and his gang of Merry Men are there to stand up for the poor (and are ready to win Maid Marion over to their side!). After a suitable war between the two sides, the good win the day and the Sheriff gets his comeuppance!
As one would expect from musical theatre, the story was delivered through a mixture of music and dialogue. With the pianist doubling up as Friar Tuck, none of the songs felt unnecessary but rather were fundamental to telling the story. It really was easy to follow and equally easy to enjoy.
There was a great balance of laughter at the bad guys antics and Robin Hood larking around with Little John. Although as an adult, the Sherif and his henchman Dewbery were pretty comical, Katie (aged 4) was quite alarmed by him. He apparently was mean and shouldn’t have threatened Robin Hood with the dungeons. Admittedly, this is the kid who won’t watch Disney’s Frozen but I thought it was quite sweet that she really was affronted at his behaviour. Although that said, she had great fun joining in booing him loudly and I thought he played the villain tremendously well.
I was slightly concerned she wouldn’t have followed all the lyrics in the songs but she picked up a remarkable amount. The Sherif of Nottingham also played Little John at one point in the play – who then obviously just vanished once the Sherif appeared again. Katie wanted to know where he had gone and why he wasn’t there to help save Marion. Obviously she didn’t twig the character changes but this was the only point of the play that was really problematic for her!
The talent of the actors was clear as they sang and leapt around the theatre. The energy really was tremendous and things were over before we had barely blinked.
Based in Edinburgh, the Manhattan Children’s Theatre exists to provide affordable, high quality theatre entertainment to audiences in Scotland, children in particular. It was evident from this performance that they are clearly meeting this aim.
Star rating? 5/5 *****
Robin Hood is on until August 20th, 13:30 at Assembly George Square Gardens – Piccolo Tent. Tickets are available from the Assembly Festival Site.