Chris Thopre is writing a new version of Robin Hood for the NSDF Ensemble production this year. The hour-and-a-half session took the form of a developmental workshop which explored the creative process of re-making this myth for modern times.

Chris led us through an initial brainstorming session which asked each of us to recount the story of the Robin Hood legend. A mass of outstretched arms surged into the air as we each began reeling off the familiar tropes: returning soldier, state seizure of land, deep wild woods, band of merry men, stealing from the rich, giving to the poor, etc.

As the list increased, we realised that ‘story’ and ‘myth’ are two different but related things. ‘Myth’ was framed as a culturally engraved series of readily available facts, while the ‘story’ (narrative) was a systematic reworking and recontextualisation of these facts. You might think this all sounds very academic, but Chris communicated it without allowing it to become a dry exercise in literary theory. Instead, we came to appreciate the legend’s potential significance for a twenty-first century milieu. Neither was Chris’s comparison of the tale to Rambo: First Blood reductive, but a means of comprehending its potential grittiness and the character’s underdog status. To be honest, who wouldn’t want to see Stallone don green tights, strap on a crossbow and spread quasi-Marxist propaganda throughout the leafy wilderness of Nottinghamshire? Heck, why not throw Jason Statham into the mix as Friar Tuck, include Bruce Willis as Little John and have ourselves an Expendables sequel of truly epic proportions?!

No one? Moving on…

We were then divided up into groups and allowed to work briefly on an outline of a scene. Our group set to work on a rough and ready narrative, in which the Sheriff attempted to compromise on a deal with Robin. Despite the fact there was little time and a large number of participants involved in this section of the workshop, we scratched together and performed a small scene to the rest of the group. It resembled PMQs, with our Sherrif of Cameron-shire slogging it out with the leader of the Milli-band of merry men. The rest of the pieces ranged from bleak social realism, absurd comedy, road movie styles, or more formal presentations on the development and trajectory of each scene.

Overall, the atmosphere of this workshop was alive, friendly, relaxed and fun. It made me excited for the Ensemble auditions later this week.

 

Chris Thorpe founded Unlimited Theatre and is part of Third Angel, the Sheffield-based performance company. He writes prolifically for radio, and is working on an adaptation on Mike Duff’s novel Lowlife for film.