Robin Hood *****

Summer in Guildford has officially started (in my diary at least) with the start of the Guildford Shakespeare Companies Open-Air Season.

The first of their two productions is Robin Hood, a retelling of the legend in period costume and modern language, for all the family.

I attended the Saturday matinee performance at the lovely, wild sanctuary in Racks Close, located of Quarry Street.  This is actually part of the original quarry from which the Guildford Castle stone was mined, now long neglected but revived for the second time by the GSC.

Robin Hood is the latest in a series of family friendly non-Shakespeare productions.  Previous hits have included, Alice in Wonderland and The Legend of King Arthur.  This was visibly succeeding as the audience with me had a very high proportion of children. This created a fun atmosphere throughout the play.

The action opens with a minstrel interacting with the audience as he sang a ballad about our hero. Then he is interrupted by the arrival of the Sheriff with all the evil intent of the best pantomime villains.

Hissing and booing as appropriate, the audience was captivated by the evil threats and the challenging insults from our wandering minstrel.

And so the play continues in high quality pantomime mode, with specially written songs enlivening the cast and audience alike.

I will not name any of the cast in particular because this was full of very good actors, both young and old, all of whom deserve credit.  (See linked # on blog page for list).

I recommend purchasing the programme, which covers both plays in the season, and putting it away safely for future reference.  I believe many new stars are making their earliest performances in this play and it may become a collector’s item.

As so often, I award the full 5 out of five stars to this GSC production.

Looking forward to the next play, Love’s Labour’s Lost, at the Collage of Law, St Catherine’s, next month.

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The Greatest Showman ****

The Greatest Showmsn is a musical biopic about the life of legendary showman P T Barnum.

It is a delightful example of a modern musical, with toe tapping melodies and memorable lyrics. I must owe an apology to those sitting near me as my feet started tapping and head bobbing along to the music, within seconds of the start. It is very infectious and in many respects excellent.

The story rattles along, compressing years into the space of a song, taking our hero from down and out to successful family man by very clever visual clues.

Hugh Jackman appears to be born for this role. He leads a remarkable cast through triumph and disaster to hope and fortune.

Its only flaw is that the story is told through very rose tinted story.

Totally ignored are the darker aspects of Barnum and the world he inhabited.

That is not surprising as this is designed as a mass-market audience pleaser, which it is, most triumphantly.

This film is worth at least 4 stars out of five, only falling short of five due to the lack of salt to balance the sugar.