Robin Hood and his Merry Men will leap onto the RDC Arts Centre stage

He’s been robbing from the rich and giving to the poor for at least 600 years — and there’s no end in sight to his fabled adventures.

He’s been robbing from the rich and giving to the poor for at least 600 years — and there’s no end in sight to his fabled adventures.

Jaunty outlaw Robin Hood made his first appearance in a 1377 poem. His feats of daring-do in Sherwood Forest were followed up in 15th-century English ballads.

Skip ahead three more centuries and the tales of Robin and his Merry Men have played out many times on the big screen — from Walt Disney’s animated film, to live-action flicks starring a succession of men in tights, including Errol Flynn, Sean Connery and Kevin Costner.

Now it’s Red Deer College’s turn to tackle the timeless tale: Robin Hood, as adapted by Canadian playwright Ruth Smillie, will open on Thursday, Nov. 24, on the RDC Arts Centre stage.

It will be a lavish spectacle, with eye-popping sets, colourful costumes and actors trained in archery and stage combat, promised director Kevin McKendrick.

But beyond the theatrical trappings, and some lively song-and-dance numbers, he believes the story will be relevant to our own times.

Not only was rich-versus-poor a huge issue in the recent American election, but Alberta’s NDP government is all set to introduce an unpopular carbon tax on all oil and natural gas purchases in the province.

McKendrick wryly noted it was King John’s unfair taxation of his subjects that caused Robin Hood to turn outlaw in the first place. “Some people were feeling oppressed, and certainly there’s a strong feeling of that today!”

Most of us know something about Robin: He battles with Little John on a log over the river; disguises himself to compete in an archery contest; woos the fair Maid Marion.

These scenes and less familiar ones will be part of the RDC production. For instance, McKendrick said Robin will help the minstrel Alan A’Dale rescue the Lady Lily from marriage to a man she doesn’t love.

The mostly second-year theatre students were challenged in many ways: They had to learn to launch arrows without spearing any cast members, and were also put into the key roles of choreographer, music director and fight captain.

McKendrick called it a pleasure to work with such a talented group on a “swashbuckling tale” of good versus evil.

Tickets for the show (for ages 8 and up) that runs to Dec. 3 are available from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

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