We all know the story of Robin Hood: steals from the rich, gives to the poor, and saves Maid Marian from the evil clutches of Prince John. But what would happen if Marian didn’t want to be saved?
This week, The Oxford University Light Entertainment Society is staging a vivacious re-telling of a favourite folk tale ending. Robin is still in Sherwood Forest, robbing passing nobles as per usual; the cruel Prince John still holds the castle, furious that Robin has snatched Marian away from him. The twist here is that Marian has refused to marry either man, and has formed instead her own nicely alliterative band of ‘Mighty Maids’ to rival the Merry Men. What follows is a light-hearted, high-spirited gambol complete with sword-fighting slapstick, comedic plotting and touching camaraderie. The script, written by student Asha Hartland, engages humorously with the traditional tale with plays on character names, such as a Sister Nip to partner Friar Tuck.
Hartland’s writing, however, does much more than just provide a funny sequel. This Robin Hood casts a modern light upon a traditional story in more poignant ways than anachronistic jokes. The humorous rivalry between the Men and Maids touches on a deeper point about female empowerment; this play consistently raises questions about the status of women in the original Robin Hood. In one of the play’s catchy songs, Marian, played by Anna Spearing-Ewyn, dismisses the Prince’s proposal with the assertion that she doesn’t “have much interest in becoming a princess”. She even delays marrying Robin, who she loves, until she has got to know him, and, importantly, herself, a bit better. Just as the play subverts the traditional story, it re-shapes the role of women to the extent that we might argue for a heroine rather than a hero of this production.
The ethos of The Light Entertainment Society bears a sense of camaraderie the Merry Men would be proud of. Everyone who auditions for the plays is given a part, and all proceeds go to charity. Judith Moore, President of the Society and Alan-a-Dale in this play, says that the Society offers the perfect “middle ground” for Oxford student theatre, maintaining quality but emphasising equal opportunity. This is a production that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but works towards a serious charitable cause and conveys some pretty serious messages. What could be a better reason to go and see it?
Robin Hood is on at Wadham College until Thursday 18th June, performing at 6.30pm.