The Heart of Robin Hood

Fear and Fun in Sherwood Forest

There are many laughs and surprises in this retelling of the Robin Hood Story.  Characters on stage either rise from or fall into a water-filled pond, slide down a steep grassy slope on their derrieres, or disappear into a black hole.  Thanks to the unusual set, the action is unpredictable, making for plenty of fun, now on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto.

This play is the back-story of Robin Hood – it starts when he is just a thug, stealing from the rich who travel through Sherwood Forest in their carriages.  There is no plan to give the spoils to the poor – Robin Hood and his men are just plain greedy thieves.Robin Hood 3

Along comes Marion, the daughter of the Duke of York.  She is being pushed into marriage by her younger sister Alice who can’t marry until Marion does.  Fed up with the trappings of castle life, Marion and her servant Pierre (also known as Big Peter) go into the woods so Marion can prove she is as tough as a man and doesn’t need any mollycoddling.  To join Robin Hood’s band of merry men, Marion pretends to be a young man. Of course, there are many twists and turns along the way, and eventually she is found out, but in the meantime she reforms Robin Hood into a caring, kid-loving, nice guy.

It’s a funny, heartwarming plot telling us more about Marion as a quick witted, strong feminist, than about Robin. There’s a touch of Shakespeare – a female impersonating a male which results in a love story. Add to that a spin of Cirque du Soleil with exciting aerial tricks.  Characters enter sliding down ropes from the high ceiling and exit climbing up.

In one hilarious scene, a puppet master high in the air makes a corpse move appropriately so that no one knows he’s dead.  But it’s not all fun – often, the audience is startled, some scary things take place and there are fights to the death in Sherwood Forest.

Izzie Steele as Marion and Gabriel Ebert as Robin Hood have good chemistry, even when she is pretending to be a man.  Steele is delightful as she scrambles up the steep hill or slides down in a wedding gown.  Ebert is appropriate as either a cocky swashbuckler or a humble young man, surprised to find himself in love.

Christian Lloyd as Pierre and Sarah Schenkkan as Alice provide the comedy.  Pierre is also something of a narrator, opening and closing with enlightening comments.

Special shout out to 10 year old Anna Bartlam of Grand Bend, who plays Sarah Summers.  She is excellent with a pivotal role, revealing information that changes the course of the plot.  Anna is a Drayton Entertainment veteran, even at her tender age, having appeared as Susie in White Christmas, Marta in the South of Music, and Molly in Annie.  Tate Yap is very good as Sarah’s brother Jethro Summers.  Tate was Emile’s son in South Pacific at Huron Country Playhouse last summer.

Although this is not a musical, a band called Pasonfield adds lively songs, weaving their way in and out of the story like roving minstrels.  They and their instruments are often used as props.

Thanks to a clever retelling of an old story using comedy and thrills, and a very inventive set with creative props, this is excellent entertainment.  This show originated in England, then coming to Canada, first in Winnipeg and now Toronto.  It’s expected this production will move on to Broadway.  I wish them “break a leg” but that is a very distinct possibility with all the physicality, running up and sliding down hill, climbing out of the pond or plunging into a deep hole.

The Heart of Robin Hood continues with eight shows a week at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until March 1.  Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit for tickets.

Photo: Izzie Steel, left, as Marion, Gabriel Ebert as Robin Hood, in The Heart of Robin Hood.  Photo by Joe Bryksa, Winnipeg Free Press.  

The Heart of Robin Hood
By David Farr
Songs by Parsonfield
Directed by Gísli Örn Garđarsson
Performed by Gabriel Ebert, Izzie Steele, Christian Lloyd, et al
Produced by David Mirvish with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre
Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto
December 23, 2014 to March 1, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson



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