If you are in the mood for an evening of silly comedic theatre, belly laughs and general stage mayhem, then the London Community Players’ production of The Trials of Robin Hood, now playing at London’s Palace Theatre, is where you need to be sometime between now and December 20.
Director Ceris Thomas, who doubles as an onstage gypsy musician during the show, says that the cast and crew have been having a blast and audiences have been joining in the fun since the show opened on December 3.
“This production is perfect, family-friendly theatre for the holidays,” says Thomas. “It’s a big Christmas party suitable for families and children four and up.”
Most people are familiar with the basic Robin Hood tale so there is no need to recount it here. This play, which Thomas describes as “being as close to being a British panto without actually being one” is built around the premise that King Richard has finally returned from the Crusades and he wants to know what has transpired in and around England’s Sherwood Forest while he has been off saving Christendom. Set in Richard’s tent, the characters present three distinct versions of the Robin Hood story with all of the dramatic energy they can muster.
The results are hilarious!
A cast of manic actors ranging in age from 15 to over 60 keeps the action and laughs coming for the play’s two acts. It is truly an ensemble cast, but a few honourable mentions are in order.
Sean Brennan as the “stout and lusty” Robin Hood is magnificent and his comedic timing is spot-on, as is Ashley Berklemans as Maid Marian, the focus of his romantic attentions. Veteran community actor (and my former high school football rival coach) John Darnell absolutely steals the show every time he opens his mouth as the dastardly Sherriff of Nottingham. Dressed in black leather Darnell, along with Andrew Richardson’s Prince John, play their villainous roles to the hilt, to the audience’s delight.
Indeed, all of the familiar elements of British panto are here: slapstick routines, clever wordplay and double entendre, excruciating puns, men in drag, historical anachronisms, the inclusion of modern day references and music, and audience cue cards. Audience participation is also encouraged throughout the show. It all makes for organized chaos and great fun on the Palace Theatre’s mainstage.
The decision to commission London musician Donna Creighton to compose original music for The Trials of Robin Hood was a stroke of genius. Situated on stage left, the talented London songstress, accompanied by Thomas, plays a variety of instruments including guitar, ukulele, and recorder, adding an ideal musical background for the mayhem unfolding elsewhere on stage.
The set is simple and functional and the props serve their purpose. The characters’ costumes are fantastic — kudos to designer Rebecca Lenko and her Costume Construction Crew.
The play is being promoted as family-friendly and it certainly is, but parents are advised to bring their kids up to speed on the Robin Hood story and myth beforehand to ensure maximum enjoyment and minimal boredom for all.
Highly recommended for kids of all ages. Be sure to see it before it’s too late!
Rick Young is one of the Arts & Culture writers for eatdrink magazine. He was founder and managing editor of The Beat Magazine from 2009 to 2014. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.