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The Ballad of Marian and Rob review at Traverse Edinburgh

Gruppe 38, based in Arhus, Denmark, have Black Box theatre down to a very fine art. Four oversize wooden chairs and two stand-alone spotlights are all the four performers – dressed in black evening dress complete with tail-coats – need to bring this retelling of the Robin Hood story to their eight-year-old and over audience. That, and the face of Bodil Alling who, as Marian, is assured enough in her performance to simply sit and let her twinkling eyes do the talking for her as she draws the audience in. At its heart, this is simple narrative story telling. The four usher their audience in and recite a story which might be in verse. But gradually, although a fourth wall is never built, fragments of scene are enacted and built upon until the narration becomes the fragmentary element.

The actors are crows, perhaps, sitting in the forest clucking and crying while Soeren Soeondberg rustles leaves in the wind on his accordion. Or Claus Mandoee as the young rapscallion Rob deftly works sleight-of-hand tricks to steal from Kim Kirkeby’s rich man and give to Soeondberg’s blind man.

Running through the whole story is a haunting musical streak that echoes and emphasises the plot, whether it is Marian’s policeman father or Rob’s plaintive flute in the forest. But it is Gitte Baastrup’s deceptively simple design which really sticks in the memory – particularly Rob balanced on chair backs, twisting a beam of light until a hole in the ceiling is gone. Pure magic.

Production Information

Traverse, Edinburgh , May 25-27

Thomas Tidholm & Gruppe 38
Hans Roenne
Gruppe 38 as part of the Children’s International Theatre Festival
Bodil Alling, Kim Kirkeby, Claus Mandoe, Soeren Soeondberg
Running time