Project X Theatre Productions is back in Kamloops for a 10th consecutive year and their latest offering. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood had the near-capacity audience at Prince Charles Park enraptured. The audience was treated to a winning combination of edge-of-your-seat excitement and over-the-top hilarity.
Written by Jeff Pitcher and directed by Heather Cant, the play offers another version of the famous Robin Hood story that we all know and love. The script hits all of the notes expected from a tale about Nottingham’s most famous bandit: Robin steals from the rich, an archery competition for a golden arrow, and a certain Maid Marian ends up falling in love with our titular hero. However, it is the different way this play goes about maneuvering its characters into the expected places that makes it appealing.
The 12-person cast of Mack Gordon as Robin Hood, Kelsey Gilker as Maid Marian, Stephen Sawka as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Brooke Ballam as Alan-a-Dale, Andrew Cooper as Guy of Gisborne, Dušan Magdolen as Friar Tuck, Wyatt Purcha as Little John, Meagan Petrie as Will Scarlett, Chanelle Renee as Justine the Seer, Christopher Seguin as the Knight, Joel Feenstra as Forester 1/ Merryman 1 and Lukas Vanderlip as Forester 2/ Merryman 2 all combined to create something that is very entertaining. The joy with which each actor approached their respective roles radiated from them and quickly infected the entire audience.
Unlike other versions of the story, the Robin Hood brought to life by Mack Gordon is a full and realistic character. Beginning the story as a brash and arrogant youth who seems equally concerned with his own notoriety and his urge to help the downtrodden folk of Sherwood Forest, the audience is able to see him grow into the legend that we all know so well.
Allowing a character to undergo a full arc was not something limited to Robin Hood however, as Kelsey Gilker explained.
“I play Maid Marian, and she starts off very righteous in her beliefs about law and order, and then this madcap character called Robin Hood comes in and starts to cause a bunch of hysteria amongst her and kind of dishevels her beliefs a little bit. And at the end… she changes her mind a little bit, let’s say.”
All of the character growth did not come at the expense of humour however, as the three main sources of laughter throughout the show were static and consistently funny.
TRU alum Andrew Cooper provided a standout performance and almost every line he delivered in an outstandingly funny French accent was greeted with a roar of laughter from the audience. Likewise, Stephen Sawka had the crowd in stiches every time he was unable to stomach saying the name Robin Hood, and as Dušan Magdolen explained, his version of Friar Tuck is a simple man.
“I just want to party, just roast some deer and give me some ale and all is well in the world,” he said about his character.
This love of food is readily apparent throughout the show, and Magdolen returning to scenes just to tuck food into his robes gets more and more funny each time.
Taking place in the corner of Prince Charles Park, the play incorporated its outdoor setting into the action to great effect. The trees around the set acted as a natural extension of the Sherwood Forest that the actors performed in, and the set itself was versatile, changing from a dingy dungeon to a forest clearing with only a few footsteps to the right from the actors necessary for the transformation.
Of course, this being a play about perhaps one of the most famous archers of all time, arrows were constantly zipping through the air and sprouting up in some very unexpected places.
That the effects were so believable is largely due to the work of Travis Hatt and Gal Minnes, who are, respectively, the technical director and production manager of the show.
“What we are in charge of is taking all of the concepts, all of the designs and ideas, making sure they are feasible and then realizing the designs. Our jobs are multi-faceted and they change day-by-day,” Minnes said.
Amongst all the action and humour there is also a little bit of romance taking place, too.
“My favourite part of the show, especially right now as we are just getting into it, is finding the moments between Marian and Robin, because the romance is there but it’s not there a lot,” Gilker said.
A major theme throughout the play was the importance of faith, and much to the annoyance of Friar Tuck, not necessarily a faith in a higher power, but rather a faith in your fellow man. After watching The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, I certainly have faith in Project X to put on an entertaining show.
X Fest 2015 continues until August 1, with performances of the Shakespeare Show and the Merry Adventures of Robin Hood on alternating days at 7:30 p.m. in Prince Charles Park. Visit www. projectxtheatre.ca for ticket and schedule information.