Rooted in English folklore, Stirling High School’s The Heart of Robin Hood may sound like just another stage spinoff of the 1973 Disney classic, but don’t write it off as another “been there done that” night out just yet.
In this take on the much-loved legend, playwright David Farr turns the plot on its head.
Our go-to guy for saving the day, Robin, is a villain. And not your common or garden variety outlaw who’s actually just a misunderstood teddy bear, either. He is a bona fide, carriage-plundering, priest-murdering criminal.
The hero of this adventure is, in truth, a heroine masquerading as a man.
When Robin proves to be more of a full-blown desperado than a lovable rogue, Maid Marion takes it upon herself to protect the downtrodden peasants of England from the merciless Prince John. To do this, she must forgo her life of luxury in her father’s castle and pretend to be a man.
Disguised as Martin of Sherwood, she unintentionally makes an enemy of Robin, who doesn’t take well to becoming the second-most-feared bandit in Sherwood Forest and is out for blood. As in all the classics, though, good cannot prevail until love prevails and therein lies the intrigue.
Stirling High School’s drama teacher and director, Marc Williams, is known for his ability to transform energetic teenagers into dedicated young thespians in a matter of months, and this year’s production shows the level of professionalism that local theatregoers have come to expect.
“It really is a lovely script, which is so well written, making it easy to work from and add little embellishments here and there,” said Williams.
Laura-Jean Runchman, in the role of Marion, has to transition (often at breakneck speed) between being an archetypal young woman, with all the ideals and dreams that that entails, and a macho member of Robin’s gang.
Despite this, Runchman is unwavering in her delivery as the spirited Marion, who needs more than a mere prince to keep her happy.
The portrayal of Robin is a poignant trade-off between the ruthless, self-centred character we meet at the start of the play and the good-natured ruffian that generations of audiences have come to know. His bad reputation aside, Robin (Ethan Petzer) is not beyond redemption and Petzer’s performance shows how love – and the occasional tongue-lashing from the right woman – can do wonders for a self-professed scoundrel.
Marion’s apparent sidekick, Pierre, played by Daniel Anderson, turns out to be no sidekick at all. His comedic presence is the highlight of numerous scenes and Pierre’s ingenuity in a crisis consistently saves the day.
Matthew Stanford is the archvillain, Prince John, who will stop at nothing to usurp the throne. Although determined to marry the pure-hearted Marion, Prince John is malicious to the core and has more in common with Marion’s airheaded sister Alice, portrayed by Tanique Allers, who by her own admission takes great delight in “a good corpse”.
The Stirling High School hall has been transformed into a wooded wonderland.
Seated beneath the leaves of a great oak and flanked by forests and castle ramparts, the audience members find themselves immersed in the medieval action.
The production, which began its run on Tuesday, is on until Saturday March 11. The show starts at 7pm. In addition to the evening performance on Saturday, a 2pm matinee has been scheduled to cater for the early risers and youngest culture vultures.
Tickets (R50 for scholars and pensioners and R80 for adults) can be purchased from the Stirling High School main office.
For bookings, contact 043-735-1444.