Zinging arrows, clashing swords and star-crossed lovers pledging their troth beneath gnarled branches of ancient oaks.
There’s no doubt about it — Red Deer College’s Robin Hood, which opened Thursday on the Arts Centre stage, is one fantastic-looking production.
The spectacular set, designed by Angela Dale, enchantingly encompasses the looming majesty of Sherwood Forest, the cold austerity of Prince John’s castle, and Nottingham’s bustling town square.
The colourful medieval costumes, as envisioned by designer Brian Bast, seemingly spring from the pages of a lavishly illustrated children’s book.
And the swashbuckling antics of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, as adapted by Ruth Smillie and directed by Kevin McKendrick, hit all the familiar notes. Even the arrows magically strike their intended targets.
Yet, despite so much going right in this production, the passion, excitement and humour needed to make this story truly entertaining were largely lacking during the opening night performance.
Smillie uses courtly dialogue (“Surrender, outlaw!” “Miserable cur!”) to tell this timeless tale of a nobleman Robin Hood (Ronnie McLean), who goes rogue to fight for the poor and oppressed during Prince John’s unjust stewardship in England.
But many of the young cast members were reciting their lines instead of creating memorable, larger-than-life characters.
I say forget subtlety: Crank it up a few notches and have fun with it, people! Let’s see acting of Disney-like proportions!
The villains need to be hand-rubbingly, maniacally evil. The noble characters should be sickeningly good and earnest. The heroes are required to be flamboyant dare-devils of the Errol Flynn School of Gallantry. And the cowards have to literally quake in their boots with fear.
Several cast members were well on their way, including McLean as Robin Hood, Kira Kirkland as Maid Marian, Mike Richards (Sheriff of Nottingham), and Theo Grandjambe (Guy of Gisbourne).
Real standouts were Stuart Old (King Richard/Robert de Passy), Maggie Chisholm (Lady Lily) and Tanner Chubb (lovelorn minstrel Alan-a-Dale).
Since other second-year theatre students have impressed in other shows, they might simply need more time to gel in the roles — and could very well own them by the end of the play’s run.
Then Robin Hood will look — and truly feel — magnificent.
The play with music continues to Dec. 3.