Sesaya specializes in music and arts education.
March break’s almost over . . .and you’re probably tired of trying to keep the kids entertained. Have you been worried about sacrificing your time and enjoyment for your children’s entertainment, and using up time you’ll never get back? Worry no more, I’ve got just the acrobatic, inventive, hilarious, and always surprising spectacle for the rest of your family… and you. Its called The Heart of Robin Hood, and it’s a Mirvish production playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until it ends its Toronto run on March 29th. Complete with funny, memorable characters, innovative directing and set design, plus great music, The Heart of Robin Hood is a thrilling experience for the whole family.
If you’re worried about seeing yet another retelling of the traditional legend of Robin Hood, the moral outlaw who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, don’t worry. This version by David Farr is not about the classic Robin Hood we are all familiar with. Instead, when we first meet them, this Robin and his not-so-merry men are robbing wealthy people travelling through Sherwood Forest… and keeping the stolen money for themselves. Maid Marion leaves her castle with her servant Pierre when the evil Prince John – who steals from the poor and gives to himself – tries to force her to marry him. Marion asks Robin to join his band, and after being rejected, she decides to become Martin of Sherwood, a moral outlaw who really does help the poor. Ultimately, the play shows how Marion (who is more than an equal to Robin Hood) inspires him to become the Robin Hood of legend, and together they defeat Prince John.
The characters are convincing, and unique to this feminist retelling, rather than being copies of characters from earlier versions. This version of Robin Hood (played by Kristoffer Sagmo Aalberg) is a stubborn, forceful and taciturn leader. Marion (played by Izzie Steele) is an independent, strong and reckless woman who isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty, and Pierre (played by Christian Lloyd) is a welcome addition to the story as a loyal servant who is devoted, but prefers to play on the safe side and serves as a moral guide for Marion. Marion’s younger sister Alice (played by Sarah Schenkkan) is a more stereotypical female of the times who is desperate to get married but is forced to impatiently wait until Marion is married first. When she takes things into her own hands, she gives the audience (especially one lucky member of the audience) lots of laughs in the process.
The characters aren’t the only thing that sets The Heart of Robin Hood apart from other family shows. Gísli Örn Garđarsson’s direction is a huge part of what makes this show dynamic and visually striking. The characters don’t just use the space on the set, but also the space above it with rope work reminiscent of Cirque De Soleil. The fight scenes and aerial work are well-executed and convincing, and are used to further the story without being excessive or confusing, even employing techniques such as film-style slow-motion acting and lighting during key moments in combat. The direction and the ingenious set propel the characters into continuous acrobatic motion, keeping you on the edge of your seat with your attention focused on the story. The set, designed by Börkur Jónsson, features a steep downward slope at the back. At the front on one side is a pond (complete with real water!), and on the other side is a circular trap door. The characters continually run up the slope to get to the two thin retractable drawbridges… then slide down the slope. Numerous characters jump down the hole to get offstage, and sometimes hide in or pop out of the pond unexpectedly. And characters enter from the sky by climbing down ropes or flinging themselves off an overhanging tree.
And if the set and the direction don’t make this show unique enough already, let me tell you about the band. The play is not a true musical, but 5-member indie band Parsonsfield plays high-tempo bluegrass rock music from well before the actual show starts all the way until the play’s end, including during intermission. They seamlessly and comically weave themselves right into the middle of the action, playing during fight scenes and important moments in the plot. Not only do they provide a spirited soundtrack, but they are characters as well, with humorous references from the merry men and Robin Hood. My favourite? When the merry men go to sleep in the forest, but not before one of them calls out, “Goodnight, band!”
From the dynamic music to the inventive set and energetic direction to the unexpected characterization, everything about The Heart of Robin Hood is incredibly well-executed and original. It’s unlike any other production you’ll ever see. Your kids will love it…. And you won’t regret it either. With tickets now costing next to nothing for its final weeks (just $25 and $40 when you use the promo code FINAL4), you really have no excuse not to see it. So go to the Royal Alexandra Theatre and see The Heart of Robin Hood before it leaves!
What: The Heart of Robin Hood, written by David Farr, directed by Gísli Örn Garđarsson, music by Parsonsfield
When: Running until March 29, 2015
Where: Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, ON
Who: Whole family
For tickets: 416.872.1212 or toll-free 1.800.461.3333