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.