“How refreshing”, commented another parent to me after the play, “that the school which gave birth to Private Eye and some of the Monty Python team can still find an expression of comic satire and light-hearted lampoonery. That was amazingly funny.” True, Private Eye has been sued on occasions and it is not recommended reading for the straight-laced, fainthearted or unintelligent. But if the hallmark of a good play is to attract too many would-be viewers on the opening night (standing room only at the back, anecdotally; I was at the front looking the other way. Don’t for heaven's sake tell H&S) and to provoke sustained laughter for about two hours, then Robin Hood was a huge success. There is reason to celebrate its success: while a strong lead was provided by those at the top of the House, few, if any in Rigg’s, had nothing to do with it, and half of Emma Darwin L6 were involved too. Sound, light, front-of-house, back stage, refreshments were all pupil-led with little professional input on the night. The simplicity of the set and a well thought out lighting plot allowed swift scene changes. Actors were created from hitherto retiring individuals (well, downright shy, some of them), and they collectively overcame that gnawing sense of fear and stage fright as the sense of occasion generated by CEC’s scripting and the audience reaction lifted their energy to level after level. Regional accents strengthened as the play proceeded and minor actors on the sidelines (and major players temporarily off the plot) added hugely to the production by staying in character even when out of the lime-light. It was in all senses a courageous production.
Leslie’s confident, sunny and open Robin Hood provided half of a comedy duo with Lapage’s Gerald of Wales, portrayed with a lively sense of comic timing in his great uncle’s accent, ably backed up by a vibrant and confident Kinnaird as a previously-unknown-in-this-story Bog Trotter. Katie Williams as Will Scarlett and the Merry Men from EDH added another colourful dimension again. Lynch-Staunton as Sheriff gave us the character we love to hate, well supported by Day as his grinding henchman, Mostyn (hmmm.) Kim and Shelley (Rainbow and Emily Hay) provided such a humorous and strident counterpoint to the Sheriff’s narrative that it is hard to work anything fluent at this point. In true panto style, fun was banished by the kidnapping of Father Christmas (Mason) and the comic pathos of his separation from Aston’s Rudolf was highlighted in the strobe-lit reunion. Dickins' interpretation of the inept titled and powerless Gisborne left us in no doubt as to his intentions for the gentle Marion (Rosie Parr) whom he must marry to enable the Sherrif to ascend to power in the absence of Angell-James’s King Richard. By no means least was Aitken Minor (6’2”, I think) as Nanny, also suitably embellished with a relative’s accent and whose character developed exceptionally well as the play proceeded, and Aitken Major (6’6”) as Little John had a suitably woodland-elfin take. Scofield’s Tuck and Douglas’s Joker demonstrated great strength in depth. Special mention must go to other seniors never yet seen on stage, Leigh-Bramwell as Simon Cowell (don’t ask), Morgan as Jim, Adeyefa as Jessie Flash and Bailey as Gap Yah added a very positive atmosphere. All others not named deserve praise; I hope that they will appear on stage again in the near future to claim their place, for their contribution to the whole was huge.
While the Eye authors were exclusively Churchillian (Boo, hiss, say some, but Stay, say I; indeed two of them were successive Heads of House), Palin of Python fame is a dyed in the wool Riggite, still occasionally seen sporting a Rigg’s tie and he has been broadcast singing The Carmen* in a foreign clime on a cold dark night round a camp fire. Not that one particularly advocates the latter, but it illustrates how the memories taken from school remain vivid for a long time. I suspect we have not heard the last of Cooke’s Robin Hood by a long chalk.
Anon (name and address provided) and on, and on.
*The school song, silly.
Philip Lapage, Parent.