Robin Hood

Ophaboom
Riverside Studios
(2002)

I'm going to enjoy writing this review, but nowhere near as much as I enjoyed the performance of Robin Hood last night by Britain's finest commedia dell'arte company Ophaboom. In a deluge of frenetic energy and scintillating physical skill, four performers overwhelm us with satirical takes on our major folk heroes, Robin, Marion, the Sheriff and Tuck, and with a host of gormless soldiers and peasants too.

This is good, hearty, belly-rollicking fun from beginning to end and, while it is aimed at a young audience, it tickles the naughty kiddiwink in all of us with its irreverant trumping of one of our prime cultural mythologies.

The Riverside's small Studio 3 is a perfect venue for this show, which welds the individual audience members together into a community of one through the gift of laughter. This is a generous group of performers, sharing their enjoyment in debunking the cliches of folklore with us and making us accomplices in the de-mythologization. But the large measure of fun should not divert us from recognising that this is a consummately clever piece of theatre, put together with invention, assurance and attention to detail. Accolades must go to the performers, who flesh out a simple yarn with every comic trick in the book, spun out to the point of absurdity, and delight us with every movement and gesture. Their mask work is superb.

Nor has 'playing with the audience' gone out of vogue with Ophaboom. The show is tantalisingly inclusive as the characters roam among us feeding on the delicious and helpless embarrassment of being singled out. I know I might be perverse, but I love a good villain and Ophaboom's Sheriff of Nottingham is every bit as stupid, vicious and sexy as Alan Rickman in the awful Hollywood film of a decade ago. At one point he asks the techie to put the house lights down because this is the ugliest audience he's ever seen. I bet you say that to every audience! Grrrrrh!

Robin Hood runs until 14th December

Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher