CLASSIC TALE - Red Deer College theatre students present Robin Hood on the Arts Centre mainstage. Performances run through to Dec. 3rd. Matinees are also scheduled for Nov. 26th and Dec. 3rd.

RDC treads into classic territory with Robin Hood

Performances run through to Dec. 3rd on the Red Deer College Arts Centre mainstage

There’s always something enticing about heading to a theatrical rendition of a classic – like Robin Hood, currently being staged by Red Deer College theatre students on the Arts Centre mainstage.

Performances run through to Dec. 3rd with curtain at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are also scheduled for Nov. 26th and Dec. 3rd at 1 p.m.

With guest director Kevin McKendrick at the helm, the show features 15 students who work hard to bring the tale to life – against a terrifically-designed, some superb musical choices that enhance the story line, and clever use of lighting and sound to that much more bring the story to life.

As to the story, this particular interpretation was penned by Ruth Smillie, and it nicely boils down the story to its key elements that most folks are already at least some what familiar with.

There is drama, romance and glints of humour wound together as the plot unfolds, focusing on our hero Robin Hood (Ronnie McLean) and his dealings with the scheming Sherriff of Nottingham (Mike Richards), the tyrannical Prince John (Michael Bentley) and of course his faithful band of merry men as they engage in an adventurous life of, as the synopsis puts it, “Sharing what they had and working towards a better, less oppressive life.”

Robin Hood is certainly one of those characters whose appeal hasn’t faded in the least, and neither has the story – one of the constant warring between good and evil, justice and the injustice and staying true to what you really believe in mattered.

It’s an old story, but a refreshing one just the same – and very accessible and universal in what it conveys.

Calgary-based McKendrick, who is also an accomplished performer, producer, teacher and arts administrator in his own right, directed last season’s charming production of Almost, Maine and the hugely popular Lend Me a Tenor several years back for RDC as well.

For the most part, the cast handles the demands of the story well.

There are times when momentum wanes and some of the young actors seem to lose touch with the heart of the characters they are working to portray. Some lines of dialogue – on the evening I saw the show – were delivered as though they were being ‘read’ as opposed to being ‘lived’.

Obviously, that’s partly an issue of experience, but I felt like this was a cast that certainly had the skill and know-how to inhabit their characters.

At times, that didn’t seem to happen – particularly in the first act.

But the second half proved much livelier overall – the actors seemed to settle more comfortably into the art of true storytelling – and the show was richer and more colourful for it.

It’s not like the actors just had their acting to focus on either. To their credit, McKendrick had also previously noted they had also been learning other skills, such as stage combat using the quarter staff, broad swords and hand-to-hand combat, and all students have also participated in archery training.

Standouts amongst the cast include, of course, McLean in the title role.

His natural charisma and energy served the part well, as they did for Kira Kirkland in her turn as the charming, brave and sometimes – when she needed to be – steely Maid Marian. Bentley was great and quite convincing as Prince John – as was Taylor Osiowy as the manipulative Black Barbara.

Sara Fowlow was also exceptional as the horrendous and cold-hearted Oswald Montdragon.

As a whole, and as already mentioned, the cast is clearly a talented bunch – no question about that. But that emotional ‘punch’ just seemed to be absent through portions of the play.

My hope is that each would grab onto the essentials of their particular characters, let the energy flow and simply fire up the elements that are already there – and this show would absolutely resonate more with audiences. I’m confident that as the play’s run continues, that’s exactly what will happen.

Tickets for Robin Hood are available online through the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

mark.weber@reddeerexpress.com

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