Marketed as family fare, The Heart of Robin Hood, David Farr’s feminist twist on the classic legend, is perhaps more suitable for kids than for grown-ups. Co-directed by Icelandic artists Gisli Örn Gardarsson and Selma Björnsdóttir, it’s a pleasant two-hour interlude that serves up an attractive spectacle, nimble acrobatics and moderate chuckles. As long as your expectations are moderate, you’ll enjoy your evening.
In Farr’s version, which premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011, Robin (Luke Forbes) and his men are merry bandits who take from the rich and keep the spoils for themselves. The story’s true heroine is Lady Marian (Christina Bennett Lind), the beautiful eldest daughter of the Duke of York. She’s an adventurous, open-hearted woman who aspires to be an outlaw in the forest, especially after the wicked and lecherous Prince John (Eirik del Barco Soleglad) arrives at her father’s castle and declares he wants to marry her.
When Marian first meets Robin, she’s disappointed to learn he’s only out for himself. Suspicious of women, he discourages her from joining his band, so she dons men’s garb and establishes her own marauding enterprise, assisting the poor and becoming revered as “Martin of Sherwood.” Eventually the rival bandits meet again, and Marion persuades Robin to help her rescue two orphaned children (Gavin Lewis and Lily Rose Silver) from evil John, who has already executed their father for refusing to pay an onerous tax.
A visual treat, designer Börkur Jónsson’s set evokes a lush magical forest, with a steep sliding backdrop for the actors to cascade down and scramble up again at frequent intervals. The performers also swing from ropes and hang upside down from the ceiling, circus-style. Their maneuvers add panache to the story, but if you’ve been to Cirque du Soleil, you likely won’t be blown away.
Lind delivers a perfectly serviceable performance as Marion, but it’s more capable than inspired. Forbes also performs ably as a swashbuckling hero with issues, but here, too, there’s a missing spark. On the other hand, as villain John, the comical Soleglad steals every scene he’s in. Sarah Hunt is also a good deal more entertaining as Marion’s desperate-to-marry sister, Alice, than is her noble-minded sibling. And as Pierre, Marion’s clownish gay companion, Daniel Franzese lucks out with the lion’s share of comic riffs.
Icelandic vocalist Salka Sól and her band bridge the various scenes with folksy songs that don’t mesh all that well into the story. The lyrics are rather bromidic, and the effect is to extend the show beyond its organic conclusion.
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; through Dec. 17; (310) 746-4000; TheWallis.org/RobinHood.