Reviewed – 1st December 2018
“The lyrics are so cringeworthy and bad that they are good, and they set the comedic tone of this caper perfectly”
If you wind your way down country lanes just outside Newbury, then run a gauntlet of ducks, you will discover tucked away in the Berkshire countryside is a quirky little theatre called The Watermill. Sitting alongside the River Lambourn it retains many of its original architectural features – some of which are very visible in the theatre itself. It is a unique and charming set-up.
This year’s Christmas production is a modern take on Robin Hood. If you thought you knew the story, then you are likely to be very confused. Written by children’s poet and novelist, Laura Dockrill, the plot is both simple and bizarre. The six-strong troupe of actor-musicians gamely bring us this bonkers romp. Robin (Georgia Bruce) is reimagined as a punky girl, and she is joined by her band of Merry Many, who are dressed as Boy Scouts. Little John (Daniel Copeland) has an in-depth knowledge of baked beans, and Alan-a-Dale (Leander Deeny) is permanently sloshed.
The original songs come from Hugo White, of The Maccabees, and have a rocky edge. The music is performed by the actors on stage, and is weaved into the storyline to great effect. Largely driven by guitar and drums, the use of squeaky kazoos and a descant recorder serve to remind us that this is definitely a show for children. The lyrics are so cringeworthy and bad that they are good, and they set the comedic tone of this caper perfectly.
Maid Marion (Stephanie Hockley) is a hippy chick who likes to knit, and it turns out she doesn’t really like Robin Hood – although she is even less keen on The Sheriff of Nottingham (Leander Deeny). If Alan Partridge and Rik Mayall had a love-child, then Deeny’s Sheriff would be him: an outstanding performance that had the audience in stitches. He cuts a ridiculous villain, whose insults are strange compliments – and his most heinous of crimes is being a terrible musician.
It’s absurd and rambling, but at the same time hugely enjoyable. My young companion had a lovely time, wanting to go again and take his brother, which is a strong recommendation. Its originality makes it appealing, and while the tale might be a familiar one, this take has given it something new.
Reviewed by Emma Gradwell
Photography by Philip Tull
Watermill Theatre until 5th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: