Gangsters in the Hood?

A scene from The Dukes outdoor walkabout production of Robin Hood
A scene from The Dukes outdoor walkabout production of Robin Hood

Lancaster Dukes Theatre is again staging outdoor 
summer performances in the city’s Williamson Park, after a year off to catch its financial breath.

So why risk alienating the huge public support that these productions enjoy with this ill-conceived re-working of one of its best-remembered plays from 20 years ago?

The perfectly-serviceable legend of Robin Hood has been deconstructed and put back together with lumps of George Orwell and even Shakespeare sticking out.

There might be a case for turning Sherwood Forest’s finest into a hero to mirror our own age of uneven wealth distribution, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Instead writer Kevin 
Dyer puts him at the centre of a dystopian future where the Sheriff of Nottingham’s evil sidekick rides a motorbike and his henchmen enforce draconian New England laws.

A cast of seven, kitted out from the dressing-up box marked Post Punk, give it all the performance it deserves, in six locations around the park. There’s far too much emphasis – or over-reliance – on audience involvement.

If pantomime was intended – and there are plenty of crowd-pleasing local references – then it comes without the laughs.

With a 25-year tradition of plays in the park, the Dukes’ expertise was always simple story-telling, accessible for all ages, giving audiences memories that are seared on the mind, rather than burnt on their smartphones and tablets – a thankless new task for the stewards to police.

Meanwhile this drama only demonstrates the difference between playing around in the park and staging a play in the park.

Robin Hood runs to August 17.

Tickets from the Dukes box office on 01524 598500.