By Madalina Hubert
Epoch Times Staff
TORONTO—”The Heart of Robin Hood” is jolly good fun. And yes, it has heart, too, and that is what makes it a great production and one that is certainly worth seeing.
The experience begins the moment one enters the theatre; on the open stage a giant forest rises from the floor all the way to the ceiling, where an oak stretches its branches toward the balcony.
A couple of musicians are off to the left playing and singing folksy tunes. You may not know what they are singing about, or whether you should be paying attention, but it looks like they know what they are doing and are having fun. Later on you will fully enjoy their rambunctious spirit more for they are members of the Parsonsfield band who will be providing the musical accompaniment.
By the time the light dims and the production begins, you’re already in the atmosphere of Sherwood forest and looking forward to meeting Robin Hood and his crew. A character monologue at the beginning further sets the mood, announcing what the story is about—namely how Robin Hood found his heart and how the narrator found his. The challenge left unsaid is: are you able to find yours?
This production might just help you do it. And on the journey there are several elements to assist—much of it in the storytelling. From the beginning (and even before) the story grabs the attention and holds it through fast-paced action and dialogue that has you both entertained and reflecting at the same time.
Who is this Robin Hood? Sure, he is a skilled fighter, he is brave in battle, and his words are sharp, as is his sword. But can we trust him? He is a petty thief and sometimes a criminal, too. He robs from the rich but keeps the spoils for himself. And although he behaves like a loyal companion, when his men kill an unarmed man on a whim, he smiles.
When brave maid Marion comes to find him, she is shocked by what she sees. She had heard of a legendary Robin Hood who robs from the rich only to give to the poor, yet what she finds is a selfish man who lets no one in his heart, especially no woman. It’s a code he expects of all his men. To him, women cause tempests in a men’s hearts and make them lose their heads and find their ruin.
So he rejects Marion, who had come to join him after hearing rumours of his supposedly noble deeds. Yet as it happens, the maiden has the true spirit of Robin Hood.
Escaping the prospective of a forced marriage to the cruel Prince John, Marion sets out to demonstrate to Robin Hood how to be an outlaw with a heart. So accompanied (grudgingly) by her extravagant music tutor Pierre, she becomes Martin, a rival to Robin Hood for the spoils of the wealthy, helping the poor face the injustices of the land.
There’s more to the plot, but that’s all I’ll reveal to avoid spoiling it. But be sure it’s in good hands, with excellent staging by Gísli Örn Garðarsson and top-notch performances by the whole cast.
In particular, leads Gabriel Ebert and Izzie Steele make a fine pair as Robin Hood and Marion, capturing the courage, humanity, toughness, and rebelliousness of the characters without falling into stereotypes. They are earthy and real, while also demonstrating the extraordinary nature of the legendary characters we have come to know.
That can be said for the entire musical, which shifts from heroism to raw emotion, from cruelty and battle to tender moments in a flash.
Originally produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon in 2011, “The Heart of Robin Hood” is a quality production worth seeing for young and old alike. And indeed, it may help you find your heart. It certainly helped me find mine.
“The Heart of Robin” runs until March 29 at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre. For more information, visit: www.mirvish.com