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Robin Hood review at Watermill Theatre, Newbury – ‘chaotic appeal’

Georgia Bruce in Robin Hood at Watermill Theatre, Newbury. Photo: Philip Tull
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Daft and rambling though it is, the Watermill Theatre’s madcap crack at the story of Robin Hood has a certain chaotic appeal.

Part of it comes from Laura Dockrill’s frankly bizarre script, anarchic to the point of incoherence, regularly spinning off into weird tangents about baked beans or exchange students.

Packed with modern references, the play reframes Georgia Bruce’s plucky Robin as a punky, bourgeois poseur, well-intentioned but ultimately more interested in feeding her ego than feeding the poor. Opposite her, Leander Deeny heaves enough energy at the slapdash plot to just about sell all the silliness, as a babbling, tantrum-throwing, and unquestionably unhinged Sheriff of Nottingham.

Director Laura Keefe struggles to rein it all in, but a few imaginative touches keep things interesting. A river crossing sequence is disrupted by increasingly unlikely sea creatures. Poker chips are handed out then snatched back to illustrate the idea of taxation for the very young audience the show is pitched to.

Frankie Bradshaw’s set features a suitably imposing forest of spindly trees sprinkled with glitter and strung with fairy lights. Squeezed between the branches, the company provide live music throughout, with Hugo White’s songs leaning on drums and electric guitar for a rocky edge, undercut by squealing kazoos.

The best number is the country-tinged Friends, where Robin clashes with Stephanie Hockley’s crochet obsessed New Age Maid Marian about their incompatible versions of their shared past, an offbeat reminder that although the tale may be familiar, the telling certainly isn’t.

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Verdict
Committed performances give life to an off-the-wall adaptation of the famous folk tale
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