Park play with an Orwellian twist

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The stunning backdrop of a Lancaster’s Williamson Park provided the perfect setting for The Dukes latest Walkabout Theatre production of Robin Hood.

Robin, Marion and the Merry Men and women couldn’t possibly ask for any more than glorious woodlands, the dramatic Ashton Memorial and a warm, balmy, summer evening as a setting for their evocation of the classic tale – or could they?

But this is no ordinary re-telling, instead interpreted by director Joe Sumsion with an Orwellian twist –the morals of the story given a shakeup in a dystopian world where Marion is a damaged beauty and Robin a dry moralist.

Tannoy announcements, military style motorbikes and security patrols flavour the scene with menace to create this story, told with the help of professional actors and an energetic supporting cast drawn from the local community.

Whether it works is up for debate. I personally found the storyline tricky to follow, only really warming up at around location three.

There is little connection between Robin (Noel White) and Marion (Loren O’Dair) who, despite acting their hearts out individually, fail to make a future relationship believable as Marion in particular comes across as thoroughly unlikeable until the very final act.

Humour is injected throughout the writing, though attempts to involve the audience are a tad cringe-y and areas of Lancashire somewhat insulted in a series of cliches – ‘Blackpool is awful.’

Shakespearian references abound, particularly in the scene in the park’ s natural amphitheatre which provides an incredibly dramatic setting with some excellent special effects.

The cast are undoubtedly multi-talented talented as actors, singers and musicians but struggle to interpret the script at times, with a resulting clunkiness, although they overcome the challenges of an outdoor setting very well.

Lauren Silver as Scarlet stood out for me, an actor and singer with the most strongly defined character who brought a smile easily although Sue McCormick as food-obsessed (Friar) Tucky had the best one-liners and audience connection.

Plot twists are enjoyable, including the sheriff ( I won’t give it away) but the musicalinterludes were the strongest and the final scenes, at the Ashton Memorial , lit up in multicolours, the most successful, despite competing with an astonishing sunset north across Morecambe Bay toward the Lake District.

A note as well for the teams of volunteers who shepherded the crowd , or rather the ‘herd’ from set to set safely and well, at times interacting with the cast and helping set the scene with aplomb.

Robin Hood is at Williamson Park until August 17.