I’VE been banging on for decades about the importance of giving a young audience a magical experience of live theatre at their first visit – usually a pantomime or Christmas show.
And at Bristol Old Vic this holiday season, it’s as though all my wishes have come true in one event – Wardrobe Ensemble’s marvellous new devised version of the Robin Hood legends. It’s full of inspired lunacy, brilliantly topical and hilarious references, adventure, romance, excitement, social awareness (and the sending up thereof), joy and hope. What more could you ask for in these bleak times?
With a cast of six and an onstage musician, it tells a tale of a disillusioned outlaw hero encouraged back into his legendary ways by a lonely 12-year old fan from the 21st century. JJ (Dorian Simpson) is the son of a hard-working single mother, dumped in the library after an embarrassing school assembly while his mum goes off to her important work. Reading a strange book, he is transported back in time.
Spoiler alerts here are left for the infamous and dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham (James Newton), whose comic timing hadn’t been fully realised until Wardrobe came along.
Robin – she’s a girl, in case you didn’t know – is company co-founder Kerry Lovell, along with fellow original Wardrobers Tom England as Will Scarlett and Jesse Meadows as the not quite so portly Friar Tuck. Katja Quist joins the merry band as Marian.
This sensationally enjoyable show tells familiar stories, nods to current sensibilities, relishes humour, basks in heroism and entertains everyone in the audience – on their feet whooping and hallooing at the final curtain and wishing it could go on and on.
We don’t do stars on the FTR, but this one gets ten out of five. It’s on until the 8th January. Get a ticket if you can. Oh, and there are green tights.
Photographs by Craig Fuller