Robin Hood: more human than hero (by Polly Graham)

Robin Hood is a character from English myth. Instantly, the name conjures romantic images of living in the woods, and of fighting with his Merry Men against injustice.

In this version, inspired by contemporary political pressures, Robin is connected to woodland and nature through entitlement. He is that kind of English Gent most of us currently love to hate. His paternalism is disturbing because it is outmoded and yet persistent. Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor is an over-simplistic political tag line; and crucially, it assumes that poverty will always exist. It is no real slogan for social change or equality.

The Merry Men is a subversive group, feeding off a social crisis in masculinity. Dressing up in green tights and hunting is a kind of masonic bonding process, and a collective fantasy.

In this production Robin straddles both these worlds. In public, he is leader of his own party, while in private he drinks with his friends in an exclusive members club, or dresses up in green tights and puts a feather in his cap. The private activities of the Merry Men have led to the accidental death of a boy. He was killed by Robin’s arrow, but no one has claimed responsibility.

Robin’s guilt and preoccupation with this death, which grows steadily more and more present in his mind, until he can think about nothing else, is the beginning of the end of his own heroic fantasy.

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