An embarrassment of riches closes out Daryl Cloran’s first season of programming at the Citadel Theatre: The Silver Arrow: The Untold Story of Robin Hood by Mieko Ouchi. Skilled stage fighting, aerial acrobatics, an abundance of archery, and performance of eight original synth-pop songs by Hawksley Workman are just some of the skills on display by the participants of the 2018 Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program until May 13.
Amongst all these performance arts, Mieko Ouchi and Director Daryl Cloran have woven a story that gives light to a possible origin story of Robin Hood, the legendary outlaw who, along with his merry band, stole from the rich to give to the poor, dating back to 15th-century legend.
Set in times of yore but with hints and nods to modern times explicit enough for an all-ages audience to understand, The Silver Arrow‘s heroine, Maid Bina Fitzooth finds herself suddenly at the centre of a fight for social justice when Prince John and the Sherriff of Nottingham take whatever pleases them from commoners, as they build a new palace. Having spent most of her life locked away in a tower to hide her amputated leg, Bina finds herself a motley crew of people who want to fight together for justice, consequences be damned.
Mieko Ouchi’s script isn’t bound by the confines of working within a pre-existing story: the show is true to its subtitle of the untold story of Robin Hood. It’s not giving anything away (check the cast list for proof) that the show doesn’t hit you over the head with the classic characters of Robin Hood and his merry band. Instead, they grow and develop over the course of the play. For those who know any version of the story, you’ll come to recognize the iconic characters as they emerge, but The Silver Arrow: The Untold Story of Robin Hood is clearly allowed to be its own thing – something I admire Mieko, Daryl, and the Citadel for. The point is not to retell an old story; the point is to imagine how that story might have come to be.
If the play continues to be developed, I’d love to see a version of The Silver Arrow that asks a bit more of at least its main characters in terms of development. I’d love to see more of an emotional arc from Bina after being essentially locked away in a tower her whole life to leaving home for a life of adventure. I didn’t see any moments of fear, doubt or even reflecting on the changes in her life. Doing so would have helped flesh out the character as someone even more relatable.
With the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program now in its 10th year, The Silver Arrow is the show I’ve seen that best represents the possibilities of the program. Without it, I don’t know how or if this show could have been pulled off. There are so many elements that are integral to the story and the way it’s told on this stage that require the hours of development and rehearsal the program affords. This is a cast that throws the idea of a “triple threat” out the window. Between singing, acting, fighting, flying through the air and playing instruments, no one in this cast rests on their laurels. Some members of the cast came in with some of the requisite skills, but with a production that demands so much of its actors, it’s guaranteed that everyone brought newly gained skills to the stage.
I was particularly impressed with the stage fighting on display in The Silver Arrow. Fight director Jonathan Hawley Purvis and fight captain Louisa Zhu (who does double duty in the role of Taka) have done a magnificent work in a play where the fighting is so critical to the story. On opening night, the fight scenes were perfectly choreographed, with the actors perfectly in sync as each jab and block landed as it should have, with no waiting for a hit to land.
With a cast of 16 strong and talented actors, the highlight reel runs long. Obviously, as the heroine Maid Bina Fitzooth, Kristi Hansen shines with her enthusiasm, optimistic attitude and no-nonsense demeanour. It’s also refreshing to see an actor in a role specifically written for a character who has a partially amputated leg, part of the ongoing efforts to bring more diverse characters to the stage. Drew Facey’s steampunk aesthetic in the set and costuming shines especially when Bina receives a prosthetic leg later in the show. As a lady-in-waiting turned minstrel and narrator, Amal Abdal brings to life Hawksley Workman’s music and lyrics in a way that feels natural to the show. Jesse Gervais adds another delightfully heinous villain to his resume in the role of the Sherriff of Nottingham. In the role of Mac – a blacksmith with a hobby of inventing devices that will be familiar to modern-day audiences – Scott Farley brings an enthusiasm and innocence to the show. Patricia Cerra (as Scarlet) is as fiery as the last time I saw her on stage in Theatre Network’s Gordon and that intensity is matched by Natasha Mumba playing the bitter and fierce Jetta John.
Whether it’s run, adventure, or spectacle you’re looking for, the Citadel Theatre closes its season by delivering all three with The Silver Arrow.