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Robin Hood review at Rack’s Close, Guildford – ‘a spirited cast’

Gavin Fowler in Robin Hood at Rack's Close, Guildford. Photo: Matt Pereira
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In a secluded copse of trees, Guildford Shakespeare Company have created a miniature Sherwood Forest, decorated with wanted posters and draped with ragged pennants. Kicking off their summer season with a cheerful open-air Robin Hood, director Richard Neale gives the show a lively energy, using the space to good effect with bandits popping out of the bushes on all sides, scrambling through the audience to make their daring escapes.

The committed and charismatic cast build on a somewhat flat, uninspired script which touches on all the tale’s familiar plot points but never quite hits the mark. As Robin, Gavin Fowler finds some depth in the tension between publicly projecting the flamboyant persona of legend, and sinking into a quiet melancholy when no one else is looking.

Sally Cheng makes a fierce, almost feral Scarlet, flying into rages but always slinking back to her makeshift family in the end, while Chris Porter skilfully walks the line between menacing antagonist and pantomime villain as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Costumes, by Neil Irish, riff on medieval attire, cladding the merry outlaws in layered, earthy tones, while the villains’ strut in jaggedly-cut black and vivid crimson. Though the set – also designed by Irish – is kept to a minimum, a sturdy rope-bridge lashed to an imposing tree creates an elevated platform, part treehouse, part battlements. As the story unfolds, smoke drifts between the boughs while lights embedded in the canopy fill the space with the glow of amber sunsets and gentle campfire red.

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Guildford Shakespeare Company's unexceptional outdoor show is rescued by its spirited cast and atmospheric setting