Review: Robin Hood – A Promenade Play – pushes the boundaries of social satire

Okay, I get it.  Capitalism bad. Socialism good.  While perhaps a bit preachy, the ITSAZOO production of Robin Hood – A Promenade Play pushes the boundaries of its social satire and theatre conventions by moving outdoors, immersing its audience into the story.

With the International Big Deal (used no doubt stave off those nasty and aggressive Olympic brand police) as its backdrop, we literally follow Robin Hood (Chris Cook) and his band of “merry men” in this modern and localized version of the classic folk tale.

Here, Robin and his gang continue to “steal from the rich and give to the poor” but rather than simply giving the money directly to the impoverished, their plan is much grander: to move the homeless from their tent city (with the red tents cleverly donated by Pivot Legal Society as part of http://www.redtents.org) into affordable housing.

Along the way Robin and his men clash with Mayor Nottingham (playwright Sebastian Archibald) and MLA Rich White (David Benedict Brown) both eerily in identical masks perhaps as Director Chelsea Haberlin’s take on being “cut from the same cloth”.  White’s daughter, this modern version of Maid Marion (Kaitlin Williams), is ultimately kidnapped, falls madly in love with Robin and at one point even decides she can better work on change “from the inside”.

The local references here to the Olympics, Mayor Nottingham who clearly represents the current Premier, tasering, all give a sense of currency to the proceedings, although it did sometimes feel a little stale and I couldn’t help but wonder what the impact might have been pre-February 12th.

The entire cast here is committed to the material and there is some real talent.  Cook’s Robin Hood was endearing in just the right amount of rogue-we-love swagger and enough charisma that by the end of the night I was almost ready to join his crusade.  Williams’ Marion sees a nice progression from clueless Paris Hilton to steadfast activist willing to give it all up to do the right thing (and for love, of course).

Robin Hood - A Promenade Play
Some of the cast of the ITSAZOO production of Robin Hood – A Promenade Play

Colby Wilson gives us a wonderful Little John with a sense of pessimism that serves Robin and his gang well but also provides some great comic relief in the ensemble as White’s butler.  One of the hardest working members of the cast, Joel Stephanson who plays the minstrel Alan, helps to move us from location to location within Queen Elizabeth Park providing musical interludes and any needed narration.

Of course, the real star of this show should be in its location as we are taken out of our normal theatre comfort zone and into this site specific locale.  For Robin Hood the “forests” of QE Park are a perfect setting although I would have preferred more forest than grassy field.

At times I did feel like we were being lectured to but in the end I found myself reflecting on my own personal situation and some of the bigger themes that this production explores, so in that sense it was indeed successful.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I have to go burn my Quatchi, Sumi and Miga dolls.

4 of 5 Stars Robin Hood – A Promenade Play
Queen Elizabeth Park
August 4-7, 10-14 and 17-19

Tickets are $13/$17 available at the Bloedel Conservatory. Visit http://www.itsazoo.org for more information.

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