So, I am not the biggest fan of the Robin Hood legend. Not sure why…maybe having been on the poor side of things at different times of my life and when no Robin Hood came to help me, I got a little resentful of the story. Maybe the Kevin Costner version in the 80’s, where his accent kept drifting between upper crust British and southern school boy soured me on all things Robin Hood. Anyways, this is not one of my favorite stories, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in the Childsplay’s version of “Robin Hood”. I knew there would be amazing performances and the production would be stellar. But it would still be the same old story, right?
Well, yes, it was. But the story is told in a completely original and engaging way. The audience is immediately a part of the action, as we become cast members in the play. The actors introduce, then flesh out their characters by letting the audience know their feelings and motivation to move the story forward. But the most unexpected element in this play for me was how funny it was. So funny. It was seriously, tears from the eyes, gut bustingly funny. So funny, that I need to see it again to catch the lines I missed from laughing the first time around.
Humor was used to make a traditionally evil villain more palatable. While we as the audience didn’t like what he was doing, gosh it was great to see him do it. The amazing Jon Gentry plays the Sheriff of Nottingham to perfection. He is not a good guy, but we enjoy watching him be villainous.
When I wasn’t laughing, I was on the edge of my seat with the action. There was plenty fighting and swordplay, and the choreography was so seamless that I forgot I was watching a well rehearsed dance. Instead I was holding my breath, hoping the hero would prevail.
The set is truly breathtaking. The sheer size and scope is like nothing we have seen from Childsplay before. My nephew commented that it looked like “the most awesome jungle gym ever”. My first thought was “wow, that sure is high”. Containing mainly crates, old tires and trees, we wondered if this version of Robin Hood took place in modern times. The answer is, no. Or yes. Or modern elements are mixed into the traditional story, to help create a contemporary, relatable feeling.
My family left this play awestruck. My son couldn’t say enough about how action packed it was. He said that Childsplay really explored new territory with the all the stunts and fight scenes. “I have never seen so much action packed into one play”.
My older niece said it was the best play she had ever seen.
My younger niece loved the pantomime.
My youngest daughter (a stage manager for many productions at her high school) was impressed with the seamless costume changes. (Her actual words…”Holy costume change, Batman!’ when Much and Prince John were practically on the stage at the same time.)
My oldest daughter enjoyed the “yumminess” of Robin Hood (played with perfect self assured swagger by Andy Cahoon).
I want to write more about our favorite parts (the deer, the horses, the music, when we first meet our hero, the effects, and, seriously, how great is Jon Gentry) but to give more detail would spoil the amazing experience that seeing this play will give you. Part of the wonder of this production was how outside of the box everything was.
I am going to see it again, and taking my husband. He will love it.
The play runs every weekend through October 6. Purchase tickets here.
I must mention the wonderful Questions for the Ride Home that Childsplay provides as you leave the theatre. We always discuss the questions on the ride home, and the questions for Robin Hood were especially compelling. We had a lively debate on the similarities between how a legend is created now versus how legends were created pre-Internet.