Robin Hood. Battering the rich to provide snacks for the poor. What a philanthropic ledge. Or was he actually a bit of a bastard who preferred hooning arrows into people? That’s the poser the good folk of the Tabard Inn hope to answer when a deliciously nasty sheriff – played perfectly by Tom Dapyln – drags a wounded Robbo into their watering hole.
Told through flashback stories (based on actual ballads about Hood’s supposed antics) this lively production from the raucous Tacit Theatre more than justifies its ‘rip-roaring tavern tale’ tagline. In keeping with the ballad tradition, songs are used as a storytelling medium, but things never get too sing-songy – action is the main ingredient here: sword fights, dancing, archery and aerial rope skills bring to life the yarns of Hood’s mischief, painting him as anything from a heroic dosh redistributor to an overgrown kid to – gasp – a cold-blooded murderer, or perhaps all three.
There’s also more quickfire tavern banter between the talented cast than the Queen Vic sees in a year, refereed by feisty tavern owner Rose Bailey, played with gusto by Rosalind Blessed, daughter of Brian Blessed (listen out for a ‘cameo’ from Bri).
An immersive element ups the panto-ish fun factor; the audience enter the theatre through the tavern while the cast serenade them with ye olde folk ditties. You can even walk up to the bar and buy a flaggard of ale (okay, a mug of mulled wine) if you can handle a ribbing by Rose. Talking of ribbing, there’s plenty here, whether it’s the sheriff trading insults with the loose-lipped Tabard boozers, Robin and Maid Marian flarguing or playful swipes at anything from the Middle Englander stance on immigration to house-sharing in London. It’s witty but ultimately accessible and tons of fun.
You’d have to be meaner than the sheriff not to do a whole lot of smiling and belly laughing during this clever, big-hearted, rambunctious show – and nobody likes a meanie at Christmas.