13th July 2016
Wolvesley Palace, Winchester
Type of Production
Author: Bob Heather
The rain was getting heavier as the audience were sat under a canopy of assorted umbrellas. Suddenly the weather changed for the better just as the performance was about to begin. The sun peeped out from behind the trees and the umbrellas all closed in unison as though choreographed. Was there magic afoot in the grounds of Wolvesley Palace where Chesil Theatre were about to perform, or was it a coincidence that three witches came skulking, cackling and hissing through the audience? The music and atmosphere suddenly sparked into life and the whole audience were transported to a glade in Sherwood Forest as if by magic.
I wasn’t aware of any witches in the tale of Robin Hood, but this was the premiere of a brand new play by local writer Jonathan Edgington. To put extra oomph into his work, he decided to add a few more characters; after all, the story is legend, not history. The whole script worked very well and I for one realised that this talented writer is destined to be one of the country’s more well-known playwrights within a few years. It was good to see some great and funny lines given out to several characters that only had small roles. The whole play was very funny from start to finish with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour throughout.
Every cast member was superb in their respective roles and gave their all. It is difficult to pick any single member out as they were all top-notch, but I really loved the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Andrews). He reminded me of Tony Robinson in his Baldrick days, but much more villainous and meaner.
The afore mentioned witches (Glenda – Heather Bradford, Medea – Sarah Andrews and Ursula – Ros Liddiard) were very good as it is often quite difficult to open the show. Although during a later scene one of them, no name – no pack drill, was sporting a pair of modern spectacles – Whoops!
Alec Walters played the eponymous hero, Robin Hood brilliantly. I particularly liked the scene where he had to fight Little John (Kevin Denison) in order to cross a river bridge. Needless to say, Robin Hood won and kicked Little John off the bridge (stage rostrum) into a hidden, conveniently placed pool of water causing a great splash, a round of applause and much laughter from the audience.
Eleanor Marsden played a very feisty maid Marion extremely well, but lost her volume a couple of times when she spoke up-stage.
Marion’s maid Bess (Christina Pye) took the bull by the horns and wowed the audience. She had some of the best lines in the show making the most of them with relish. I must admit this is one of the best roles for an actress with comedic flair that I have seen for a long time.
There are so many roles in the play, thirty-one in all, that if I wrote about them all and said how good they all were, this review would be longer than the script.
It is worth remembering that not all the main roles have the best actors, one cast member played a bit-part as a soldier, but his expressions and actions throughout were brilliant, well done David Jobson.
The costumes were spot-on for the period thanks to Juliet Hawkes, Lyn Parker and the wardrobe team. The set designer (Peter Liddiard) and his team built a wonderful scaled-down version of Nottingham Castle with ramparts that actually crossed over an existing wall at a great height.
The sound and lighting (Tony Lawther) was just right. It is a strange fact that if the lighting is very good, no one notices it. It only gets noticed if it is badly timed or wrong levels or colours.
The whole production was very ably directed by Martin Humphrey assisted by Jo Ashwell. Between them, they certainly knew how to use visual humour – a thing often missed by many.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening, except the rain at the start, and looking forward to meeting the company again at more of their productions.
I am also waiting with baited breath to see more of this talented writer's work.