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Watermill Theatre

Box office

01635 46044. www.watermill.org.uk

The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Newbury, RG20 8AE. A map is here. A seating plan is here.
@WatermillTh

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Reviews of Robin Hood

15th November 2018 to 5th January 2019

Review from Newbury Theatre.

The Watermill’s Christmas shows have tended to be good, solid shows but not very panto-like. Last year’s The Borrowers was typical of this, with actor-musicians, lots of action but not much interaction.

Well, this year it’s all changed. Robin Hood has the actor-musicians but it has a baddie for us to boo – and for him to abuse us in return.

The play starts with a Dick Turpin-like encounter in the forest with a coach hold-up and robbery. We then discover that the brains behind it is Robin Hood who rejoins the merry many. But this is not the Robin we thought we knew; for a start, Robin is – shock horror – female and moreover she is more interested in keeping the swag than distributing it to the poor. But Will Scarlet (Ned Rudkins-Stow) is better than this and persuades Robin that philanthropy is a more noble option.

Among the merry many, we also meet the usual suspects: Friar Tuck (Jorell Coiffic-Kamall), Little John (Daniel Copeland), Alan-A-Dale (Leander Deeny – more of him in a moment) and Maid Marian (Stephanie Hockley), and soon we come across the real villain of the piece, the Sheriff of Nottingham. This was a superb comic performance by Leander Deeny of a man being really evil in an unsuccessful attempt to hide his own inadequacies. He doesn’t just hate Robin and his gang: he hates us, the audience, too and is extremely rude to us.

Laura Dockrill has written a very clever play, bringing out the human frailties and insecurities of the characters, including Robin – a well nuanced and thoughtful performance from Georgia Bruce – while providing jokes and story lines to entertain adults and children (yes, lots of fart and bum jokes which the kids loved but, let’s own up, the adults did too).

The Sheriff in full rant
The Sheriff in full rant

Frankie Bradshaw’s set represents the forest (the trees looked a bit dead, but maybe it’s just winter) and a somewhat incongruous balcony but also manages to include a river (Friar Tuck, remember him?) and the Sheriff’s office.

Hugo White wrote the music (strong on kazoos) with the actors playing and singing as usual for the Watermill. Good, catchy songs and clearly sung except, surprisingly, when the Sheriff used the megaphone.

Laura Keefe directed the strong cast in this fast-moving, fun production. A delight for grown-ups and kids and the nearest the Watermill has come to a traditional panto. Highly recommended.

My co-reviewer Ellie said:

The Sheriff was my favourite although he was a baddie – he was very funny. The music was dramatic. All the characters are funny. Robin was quite strict with his men. There was lots of movement.

PAUL SHAVE and ELEANOR SHAVE (age 7)

Review from The Times.

Prepare for equal parts groans and giggles — some of the production’s quirkiness is charming, but some is utterly feeble

three stars
Think you know the evergreen Nottinghamshire legend? Well, I guarantee you’ve never seen it quite like this. Forget derring-do and men in tights. In fact, forget anything resembling a coherent plot because this version, by the children’s writer Laura Dockrill, is too busy larking around in its own wacky world to bother much with the familiar romantic heroics.

Some of its quirkiness is charming and agreeably silly. Some is frankly feeble. Laura Keefe’s colourful, chaotic production needs stringent tightening up. Yet the six-strong cast of actor-musicians are appealing, with Leander Deeny’s manic, swivel-eyed Sheriff of Nottingham wrangling laughs from jokes so weak they ought to be outlawed.

Robin is a nimble pink-haired girl (Georgia Bruce). She and her gang are dressed — who knows why — as boy scouts. The Merry Men are renamed the Merry Many (a nod to the Corbynite slogan?), Little John (Daniel Copeland) has a sweetcorn fixation [baked beans, surely? Ed], and Alan-A-Dale (Deeny, doubling up) clutches a beer bottle and is permanently sozzled — a rather dubious running gag in a family show. Maid Marian (Stephanie Hockley) is a hippy chick who loves to knit.

There are rock songs with outrageously bad lyrics by Hugo White of the Maccabees, and the plot ambles around the designer Frankie Bradshaw’s glittery Sherwood Forest without the faintest flicker of urgency. It barely registers when Ned Rudkins-Stow’s lanky Will Scarlet is captured; and there’s a protracted pointless sequence in which Marian and Robin reminisce about their schooldays together. The dialogue and tone are occasionally plain weird: why does Marian call Robin a “trollop”?

Still, if it sometimes feels as if the performers are fighting a losing battle against Dockrill’s script, Deeny comes closest to triumphing. A frothing Middle Englander in an Alan Partridge jumper, his Sheriff is consumed by envy and petty spite, relentlessly bullying Jorell Coiffic-Kamall as his hapless henchman. And although his thwarted secret passion for Robin feels like an authorial afterthought, he’s ebulliently entertaining: the undoubted highlight of this amiable shambles. It’s too good-natured to dislike, but it’s equal parts groans and giggles.

SAM MARLOWE

Review from the Newbury Weekly News and the British Theatre Guide.

The girl from the hood

Watermill produces another inventive Christmas show

Robin Hood, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until January 5

"a refreshingly vibrant new production... there is so much to enjoy... oodles of audience participation in this fun-filled family show... it's brilliant... don't miss it"

The Watermill's Christmas show is a refreshingly vibrant new production of Robin Hood, written by award-winning author Laura Dockrill with catchy, spirited music by Hugo White performed by a highly-talented company of actor musicians.

Frankie Bradshaw's beautiful set design of fragmented trees with glitter creates a magical atmosphere and there is a modern feel to the costumes that works very well.

The story is well-known, but in this version Robin is cast as a girl and Georgia Bruce gives a feisty vivacious performance as our heroine, who robs from the rich to give to the poor.

There is a wonderful take on the Direct Line Pulp Fiction TV advert as Little John, excellently portrayed by Daniel Copeland, is involved in an accident with Miss Snobs' coach and Robin pretends to be the insurance agent offering to help with the claim while taking her jewels and money as 'evidence'. Brilliant tongue-in-cheek humour.

Leander Deeny is outstanding as the petulant, wicked and nasty Sheriff of Nottingham, who relishes in being evil and drives the storyline with endless energy taking full advantage of the witty script to insult everyone.

He has taken over Nottingham Castle and is forcing the poor to pay heavy taxes and Robin to live in the forest with her band of outlaws.

Joining them is the friendly Friar Tuck (Jorell Coiffic-Kamall) and Will Scarlet (Ned Rudkins-Stow) as they plan to defeat the Sheriff despite a reward of £20,000 for the capture of Robin dead or alive.

Robin seeks the help of her old school friend Maid Marian (Stephanie Hockley) who crochets dolls to give to the poor and is obsessed with knitted crochet dresses and cushions. But they also fight over the memories of their childhood squabbles.

Meanwhile, the villainous Sheriff has captured Will and Robin sets off to rescue him and take his place in prison.

Does the plan work? Will Robin save the day and Maid Marian accept the Sheriff's proposal of marriage?

There is so much to enjoy in director Laura Keefe's inventive, playful production, from the rock 'n' roll and upbeat music to the street dancing and floss, there was oodles of audience participation in this fun-filled family show.

If you are looking for the perfect start to the festive season then Robin Hood hits the bullseye. As my two young companions said: "It's brilliant."

Don't miss it.

ROBIN STRAPP

There are reviews from PocketSize Theatre ("sadly it does not work and the cast have to put a lot of effort to get anything out of the clunky script... the humour here misfires with the adults in the audience" - 1 star), Daily Info ("the funniest villain you could imagine... perfect for age 8+ as well as being great fun for adults and not too scary for smaller children"), The Stage ("a certain chaotic appeal... although the tale may be familiar, the telling certainly isn’t... committed performances give life to an off-the-wall adaptation of the famous folk tale" - 3 stars).

There's an interesting article...

... by Tei Williams about the process in staging a Watermill production, from choosing the play through to the opening night. It's here.

Reviews in the Archive

Jane Eyre (October 2018)
Trial by Laughter (September 2018)
Sweet Charity (July 2018)
Jerusalem (June 2018)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (May 2018)
Burke and Hare (April 2018 and on tour)
The Rivals (March 2018)
Teddy (January 2018)
The Borrowers (November 2017)
Under Milk Wood (October 2017)
Loot (September 2017)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (September 2017 and on tour)
A Little Night Music (July 2017)
All at Sea! (July 2017)
The Miller's Child (July 2017)
Nesting (July 2017 and on tour)
House and Garden (May 2017)
Twelfth Night (April 2017)
Faust x2 (March 2017)
Murder For Two (January 2017)
Sleeping Beauty (November 2016)
Frankenstein (October 2016)
The Wipers Times (September 2016)
Crazy For You (July 2016)
Watership Down (June 2016)
Untold Stories (May 2016)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (April 2016 and on tour)
Romeo and Juliet (February 2016)
Tell Me on a Sunday (January 2016)
Alice in Wonderland (November 2015)
Gormenghast (November 2015) - see the Youth page
The Ladykillers (September 2015)
Oliver! (July 2015)
A Little History of the World (July 2015 and on tour)
Between the Lines (July 2015)
The Deep Blue Sea (June 2015)
Far From the Madding Crowd (April 2015)
Tuxedo Junction (March 2015)
The Secret Adversary (February 2015)
Peter Pan (November 2014)
But First This (October 2014)
Twelfth Night (November 2014) - see the Youth page
Journey's End (September 2014)
Calamity Jane (July 2014)
The Boxford Masques - Joe Soap's Masquerade (July 2014)
Hardboiled - the Fall of Sam Shadow (July 2014)
A Bunch of Amateurs (May 2014)
Sense and Sensibility (April 2014)
Life Lessons (March 2014)
All My Sons (February 2014)
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (January 2014)
Pinocchio (November 2013)
Sherlock's Last Case (September 2013)
Romeo+Juliet (September 2013 and on tour)
The Witches of Eastwick (July 2013)
Laurel & Hardy (June 2013)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (May 2013)
The Miser (April 2013)
David Copperfield (March 2013)
Sleuth (February 2013)
Arabian Nights (November 2012)
The Tempest (September 2012)
Thoroughly Modern Millie (August 2012)
Boxford Masques (July 2012)
Ben Hur (June 2012)
Of Mice and Men (May 2012)
Love on the Tracks (April 2012 and on tour)
Henry V and The Winter's Tale (April 2012)
Lettice and Lovage (February 2012)
The Wind in the Willows (November 2011)
Some Like It Hotter (November 2011 and on tour)
Great Expectations (September 2011)
Radio Times (August 2011)
The Marriage of Figaro (July 2011)
Moonlight and Magnolias (May 2011)
Richard III and The Comedy of Errors (April 2011)
The Clodly Light Opera and Drama Society (March 2011)
Relatively Speaking (February 2011)
Treasure Island (November 2010)
Single Spies (September 2010)
Copacabana (July 2010)
Daisy Pulls It Off (June 2010)
Brontë (April 2010)
Raising Voices (March 2010)
Confused Love (March 2010)
Heroes (February 2010)
James and the Giant Peach (November 2009)
Educating Rita (October 2009)
Spend Spend Spend! (July 2009 and September 2010)
Blithe Spirit (May 2009)
Bubbles (April to May and September to October 2009)
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice (March 2009)
Life X 3 (January 2009)
Matilda and Duffy's Stupendous Space Adventure (November 2008)
The Sirens' Call (November 2008)
Our Country's Good (September 2008)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of The Recruiting Officer (October 2008)
Sunset Boulevard (July 2008)
Boxford Masques - Knight and Day (July 2008)
Black Comedy and The Bowmans (May 2008)
London Assurance (April 2008)
Micky Salberg's Crystal Ballroom Dance Band (April 2008 and on tour)
Great West Road (March 2008)
Merrily We Roll Along (March 2008)
Honk! (November 2007)
Rope (September 2007)
Martin Guerre (July 2007)
Twelfth Night (June 2007)
The Story of a Great Lady (April and September 2007, and on tour)
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (April 2007)
For Services Rendered (March 2007)
Plunder (January 2007)
The Snow Queen (November 2006)
Peter Pan in Scarlet (October 2006)
The Taming of the Shrew (September 2006 and on tour in 2007)
Hot Mikado (July 2006 and September 2009)
Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year (July 2006)
Hobson's Choice (May 2006)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (April 2006)
Tartuffe (February 2006)
The Jungle Book (November 2005)
The Gilded Lilies (October 2005)
Copenhagen (September 2005)
The Garden of Llangoed (September 2005 and September 2006)
Thieves' Carnival (July 2005)
The Shed (July 2005)
Mack and Mabel (May 2005)
The Odyssey (May 2005)
Broken Glass (April 2005)
The Winter's Tale (January 2005)
Arabian Nights (December 2004)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Whose Life is it Anyway? (November 2004)
Multiplex (November 2004)
Neville's Island (September 2004)
The Comedian (September 2004 and March 2005)
Raising Voices Again (September 2004)
Pinafore Swing (July 2004)
The Venetian Twins (May 2004)
The Gentleman from Olmedo (April 2004)
Mr & Mrs Schultz (March 2004 and on tour)
Sweeney Todd (February 2004)
The Emperor and the Nightingale (November 2003)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of An Ideal Husband (November 2003)
A Star Danced (September 2003)
The Fourth Fold (September 2003)
The Last Days of the Empire (July 2003)
Accelerate (July 2003)
Dreams from a Summer House (May 2003)
The Triumph of Love (April 2003)
Gigolo (March 2003)
Raising Voices (March 2003)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 2003)
The Firebird (November 2002)
Ten Cents a Dance (September 2002)
Dancing at Lughnasa (July 2002)
Love in a Maze (June 2002)
Fiddler on the Roof (April 2002)
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (March 2002 and March 2006)
Only a Matter of Time (February 2002)
Cinderella and the Enchanted Slipper (November 2001)
Piaf (October 2001)
The Merchant of Venice (October 2001)
Witch (September 2001)
The Clandestine Marriage (August 2001)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2001)
Gondoliers (March 2001)
Rose Rage (February 2001)
Carmen (July 2000)