Robin Hood by Sebastian Archibald
Directed by Chelsea Haberlin
Queen Elizabeth Park - at the Bloedel Conservatory
August 4-7, 10-14 and 17-19, 2010 at 7:00 pm.
Run extended - 25th to 28th August
Vancouver, BC: It is definitely becoming one of Vancouver's summer theatre traditions - a promenade play by Itsazoo Productions in Queen Elizabeth Park. With the natural scenery of the park as the stage, the audience follows members of the company along pathways and grassy areas as the story moves from scene to scene. Company playwright Sebastian Archibald adapts and creates the stories from varied sources.
Last year's show was drawn from The Canterbury Tales. This year Archibald has taken the story of the medieval folkloric hero, Robin Hood, and his Sherwood Forest gang and set it in contemporary Vancouver. The premier, Nottingham (played by Archibald) and his pal MLA, Rich White (I kid you not) played by David Benedict Brown, are planning a Big Deal event to put the city on the map, and in the process get themselves re-elected. To succeed they need lots of money, which they get by cutting funding for everything else. They also want to clean up the streets and get the drug dealers, petty thieves and the homeless out of sight. And they have just the person to do this, taser-happy Chief Gisbourne (Julia Church), helped by cop (Mel Brown) and other cops.
Unfortunately for them, out there on the mean streets of the city are Robin Hood (Chris Cook) and his pals, Little John (Colby Wilson), the drunken Tuck (Brown) and Will (Katie Takefman). Robin Hood's basic plan is to rob the rich and launder the money through his "businesses" and create Sherwood House, to provide housing, addiction services and health care for the homeless. Along the way, he kidnaps and converts to his cause, Rich's daughter, the lovely Marion (Kaitlin Williams).
We start off outside the Bloedel Conservatory where busker Alan (Joel Stephanson) complete with his "permits" for busking and camping, has set up his tent. Roisted from his spot by a masked cop, his fines are paid by Robin Hood who appears out of nowhere with fistfuls of cash. Alan, singing and strumming, leads the crowd down the garden path to the second scene where we are introduced to the poor, the homeless ... and the rich who are to be robbed!
This year's scenario and direction made really good use of the different spaces, so despite the nice sized audience, there was no real crowding and everything was easy to see. Kudos to stage manager Nicole Lamb and her crew for the seamless and seemingly effortless appearance of set pieces and props while the Zoo Crew did a great job of keeping the audience moving and in order with minimal fuss.
Lauren Boggio's masks and puppets were terrific as were Kyle Sutherland's set and props, and Meredith Grantier's costumes. The puppet broadcaster scenes were really well done and Williams ad lib incorporation of the presence of a random spectator was greatly appreciated by the crowd. The acting was uniformly good and Stephanson's music kept the whole piece flowing easily between the sites. In the last song we got a too brief sample of the terrific voices of Takefman, Colby and Wilson.
The only problem for me is that the fundamental philosophy behind the Robin Hood concept of steal from the rich to give to the poor is inherently wrong and the glorification of him as a hero has irritated me ever since I first read the stories of his exploits. I appreciate the satirical intent of this production, and for sure there is ample material for political satire here as everywhere else. And much of it was very funny. Where they lost me was their definition of "the rich" and that their wealth gained through their own efforts, should be "redistributed". Look how well that worked in the USSR.
Anyway as far as I could see, the audience had a great time and obviously enjoyed the show. I liked last year's production and thought this one is even better. Thanks to a great audience response the show is actually being held over an extra week. So get your tickets for this Vancouver summer experience of a promenade play in Queen Elizabeth Park.
For more information check out www.itsazoo.org or call 778-888-243. You can get tickets at the site. Cost 13/17 dollars plus HST. Buy at the Bloedel Conservatory