Reviewed – 13th April 2018
“strong, lively and highly entertaining performances”
Everyone has grown up with the story of Robin Hood and his merry men. He takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He heroically fights, shoots arrows, and can parry with his sword like a pro. Or so we have always thought … In the current adaptation of Lionel Bart’s 1965 spoof musical Twang!! Robin Hood has been reduced to nothing more than a weak and feeble country bumpkin, due to having – as the title suggests – ‘lost his twang’. The show notoriously was a flop when it first came to the West End fifty years ago, however, it has recently been spruced up and reworked by Julian Woolford, giving it a more modern twist and playing on its pantomime-like shenanigans and musical theatre pizzazz with tongue firmly placed in cheek. A complete hoot, this is a riotously camp romp in the woods (or Sherwood forest to be precise), and they know it! Don’t be expecting the likes of a brooding Kevin Costner, think more Bob Fosse, with plenty of men in tights and slapping of thighs.
After rescuing runaway, Much (Joe Rose), from the clutches of the dastardly Sheriff (Christopher Hewitt), Robin Hood (Peter Noden) welcomes him to Nottinghamshire and into his band of merry men. But something is strange about this place. Life in this county is all a song and dance. Literally. Everything is better as a musical, so the merry men tell, or rather, perform with a series of pirouettes, high kicks and jazz hands, for Much. They are more chorus boys than brutish bandits. Things are looking a sorry state for their leader of the pack. Robin has lost his ‘twang’ and can’t be the hero he used to be. Can the beauty and charm of Maid Marion (Kweeva Garvey) help? Held captive by the villainous Prince John (Lewis McBean), can Robin find his courage again to rescue Marion? With the help of his boys, and Marion’s feisty waiting ladies, it’s certain that good will win out.
If someone who cannot stand musicals described why, this production of Twang!! probably includes each and every one of those reasons. It’s cheesy, silly, brash and bursts into song for no reason. But where this new adaptation is clever, is that it embraces it. They know they are a musical cliché, and with the clever one-liners and musical segments that reference well-known Broadway shows, there are plenty of in-jokes for the theatre luvvies in the audience. Not that this alienates the rest, mind you. It is still clear that they are making fun of the genre on a very wide, and obvious, level. Yes, the overall story is rather slight and none of the songs are memorable, however, the strong, lively and highly entertaining performances from most of the cast makes up for it. You have to get into the spirit of proceedings, but once you do, it’s a gay old time.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Anton Belmonté
Union Theatre until 5th May