As part of the Nottingham Theatre Royal's celebration of 150 years existence seven local theatre writers; experienced playwrights plus other exciting new and proven talents have been commissioned to bring about Hood – the legend continues, a new piece of theatre relevant to Nottinghamshire. Written by Andy Barrett, Tim Elgood, James Graham, Laura Lomas, Mufaro Makubika, Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon, Hood – the legend continues, is also co-produced by one of Britain's best and most innovative touring Nottinghamshire based theatre groups – New Perspectives.
The director is Jack Mcnamara and the quick change stage designs are down to designer Rhys Jarman and these are graced with atmospheric lighting by Mark Pritchard, music by Tom Mills and choreography by Chantry Dance Company.
Hood – the legend continues is allegedly based on the ballads of Robin Hood and set in the century and a half from 1865 (the year that the Nottingham Theatre Royal first opened) to the present day, thus reflecting the 150th Anniversary. It is promoted as a journey through a one hundred and fifty years of Nottingham's vibrant and colourful history through the eyes of Robin Hood. The question we may ask ourselves as an audience is 'does this theatre work also promote Robin Hood as an international figure or limit itself to local history?' The answer is most certainly the local history slant wherein each section of the story looks at one aspect of the character Robin Hood and presents a version appropriate to the historical period.
Keeping the writing in and around Nottinghamshire, the piece scores on the side of jokes about local areas and gets a lot of laughs throughout. Making fun of rival cities like nearby Derby works too, as well as it might in a pantomime setting. However this reviewer has his doubts whether a visitor from outside the East Midlands or even abroad would find the mostly Nottingham related wit in the piece amusing.
Equally, the six part episodic nature of Hood – the legend continues finds one in a succession of short historically based stories some of which don't actually seem to go anywhere and the narrative thread of the whole is stretched rather thin. In the final scene relating to the nature of the Robin Hood industry a row of what look like random supernumerary pensioners in a long line wearing modern day clothes and metal helmets are revealed to the audience. Sadly they look uncomfortably very out of place. The show in general is thankfully upheld by some spirited acting from the company especially Ed Thorpe as a very funny and engaging Alan A Dale.
Adam Morris as The Sheriff of Nottingham is best in the Second World War scene and as a greedy politician in the 1980s New Nottingham section. More darkly comical than pure evil Morris engages and entertains the audience throughout. Robin Hood himself (Jonah Russell) is presented in various rebellious guises. Mostly non-conformist in nature, this idea of Hood or Loxely is more of a man of words than an action hero although he does get into a few fights and scrapes along the way. Russell does have a good authentic rough Nottingham accent and this works to his credit.
Some of the most flexible acting opportunities are given to the two actresses Jasmine Blackburrow (Marian) and Alex Bedward (Scarlett) and both offer very enjoyable performances. Particularly funny is Bedward as a beer guzzling Nun and boy/girl newspaper seller. Lastly, Ewan MacIntosh bigs it up as Little John and brings out the comedy in all his various roles.
Overall, Hood – the legend continues offers the Nottingham theatregoers a chance to celebrate 150 years of theatrical fare in their beautiful Nottingham Theatre Royal and in a climate where theatres and entertainment venues unfortunately close this can only be a good thing.
Runs until Saturday 26th September.
Originally published and written for The Public Reviews. 19th September 2015