Review: The Heart of Robin Hood, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

“A forest is owned by no man”

I don’t have any memory of booking The Heart of Robin Hood at all! But sometime late in November I did indeed book it and failed to put it in my calendar – I may well have been drunk, I most definitely was tired! – and it was only The Trainline sending me a reminder about the train journey that alerted me to what I should be indeed be doing this Thursday afternoon.

The most impressive thing about the production, that is evident from the off, is Börkur Jonsson’s set design which has to rank as one of the most inventive uses of a thrust stage ever. A huge branch of a tree is suspended above a wide green swathe of astroturf which slopes from on high at the back of the stage, down into the auditorium. Thus the forest of Sherwood is evoked, with platforms and sections peeling back to suggest the castle of the nobles. It really is an ingenious piece of staging, endlessly delightful in the constant little reveals and surprises it came up with and even in the sheer fun of seeing people slide down into view from the top. Continue reading “Review: The Heart of Robin Hood, Royal Shakespeare Theatre”

Review: The Red Shoes, Battersea Arts Centre

“Have you seen her shoes?!”

The Red Shoes, one of Kneehigh’s most famous shows, has returned to Battersea Arts Centre where it started 10 years ago for a final run in the UK as part of the 30th birthday celebrations of this venue. It retells a version of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale of a young girl who longs for a pair of gorgeous red shoes yet when her desire is fulfilled, their addictiveness drives her beyond all reason and beyond the help of society as she cannot stop dancing until they, and her feet, are removed. It does this through a music hall frame though, so the performers arrive in ghostly make-up and men’s underwear and vie to be picked for roles in the storytelling by narrator and MC Lady Lydia, a Noel Fielding-like character who also provides. There’s also interludes with magic tricks which play up the cabaret feel, although I was not a fan of them to be honest.

There’s a real inventiveness and playfulness to proceedings as the physically dextrous performers rush around transforming themselves into any number of characters which are beautifully defined, providing musical and dance support at the drop of a hat, and allowing Patrycja Kujawska as the girl with the shoes to sustain the mood of wonder transmuted into horror as the consequences of untrammelled desire are revealed. Her wide-eyed openness was a pleasure to watch but I also enjoyed Rόbert Lučkay and Dave Mynne in the ensemble and Giles King’s charismatic turn as the MC conducting from his perch above the stage. There’s a soundtrack of darkly rhythmic classical music initially highly atmospheric though becoming a little relentless towards the end, which is supported by 2 musicians at either side of the stage with a range of instruments, including trombones. Continue reading “Review: The Red Shoes, Battersea Arts Centre”

Review: A Matter of Life and Death, National Theatre

Based on a well respected (although I’d never heard of it, let alone seen it) film, A Matter of Life and Death sees Cornish theatre company Kneehigh take the cavernous Olivier theatre by storm with a highly inventive and physical reinterpretation of this story. Peter, a World War II pilot is shot down whilst on a mission but doesn’t die because the angel sent to collect him gets lost in the fog. Instead, he meets and falls in love with June, the radio operator who tried to help him down. Peter is then forced to plead his case in the court of Heaven to see how his future will play out.

As the romantic leads, both Tristan Sturrock as Peter and Lyndsey Marshal as June seemed a little overwhelmed by the production, not really able to give us much of a sense of the relationship between the two and too often required to do something gymnastic or wacky instead of focusing on the emotion of the moment. In the more light-hearted characters, like Douglas Hodge’s Frank and Gisli Örn Gardarsson’s gymnastic Conductor, there’s more freedom and opportunity for fun, but by and large this wasn’t a production about strong acting. Continue reading “Review: A Matter of Life and Death, National Theatre”