Carl Grose’s new theatre production on Robin Hood is more than an age-old classic tale as it goes far beyond in exploring hierarchy, patriarchy and class divides, a cast member has said.
In an interview with Eastern Eye, actor Samuel Gosrani explained how the new production is a fresh take on the age-old mythical tale and is approached in a way that it is more vocal about what has been happening in society for ages.
“One of the main things that we discussed was the fact that there are many different tales of Robin Hood that have been told yet no one claims to know exactly who Robin Hood was,” Gosrani said. “We do know is that Robin Hood’s tale is about hierarchy, patriarchy, and the dynamic between the monarchies, public, and outlaws. What Carl Grose has done with his retelling is highlight those themes and still tell a story that has a lot of similarities to other Robin Hoods that have been on stage before.”
Directed by Melly Still, the adapted version titled Robin Hood: The Legend. Rewritten. is set to put a new spin on the folk tale. It will run from June 17 to July 22 at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London.
Gosrani stated that through his writing, Grose has found a beautiful way of telling a story that has been around for a long time.
“Ours is a story about a collective of people that are looking and fighting for justice,” the actor told Eastern Eye, adding how Grose has given more depth to characters as well who sometimes get brushed over.
He said that the play is not looking at telling the fantasy story about this “one particular figure but it’s more about exploring dynamics between the class system in our society and how it affects every individual”.
“I think class divide is something that’s always present as we live in a world that is fueled and funded by the upper class, and in Robin Hood terms- the rich. There is always a fictitious divide between people where some will always fight for more rights, more money and more equality,” said the 26-yearold actor, calling the new play “a perfect highlight of what we see in society”.
“What makes this retelling of Robin Hood more special is that Carl has taken a story that everyone kind of knows a little bit and actually opened our eyes to the fact that this is a story that has always been happening around us.”
In the play, Gosrani is playing Will Scatlocke, one of Robin Hood’s merry men, though he feels his character is “far from merry” but rather a representation of “actual people in a society fighting for something”.
“My character is dangerous. He’s fun, caring and very impulsive. He knows what he wants, and he’s not prepared to stop until he gets that. Deep down he is full of passion, and love, but also of hatred, anger and pain. He is full of passionate rage against injustice and exploring that arc has just been beautiful,” he said.
Completing the creative team alongside Still are Mike Ashcroft (movement director), John Bulleid (illusion designer), Joley Cragg (musical director), Poppy Franziska (associate director) and Polly Jerrold (casting director). The play also stars Charlotte Beaumont, Nandi Bhebhe, Stephanie Marion Fayerman, Dave Fishley, TJ Holmes, Paul Hunter, Katherine Manners, Shaun Yusuf McKee and Alex Mugnaioni.
The play also features Amena El-Kindy, Taya Ming, Marta Miranda, Simon Oskarsson, Ellen Robertson, Dumile Sibanda, Ira Mandel Siobhan and Elexi Walker.
Emma Laxton(Sound Designer), Ingrid Mackinnon (Season Intimacy Coordinator), Jenny Moore(Composer & Musical Supervisor), Jeannette Nelson(Voice & Text Director), Deirdre O’Halloran(Dramaturg), Zoe Spurr(Lighting Designer), Chiara Stephenson(Set Designer) and Samuel Wyer(Costume Designer) are also the part of the creative team.
Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-written is Gosrani’s second play with Still after his theatrical debut in The Lovely Bones.
“Still is very focused on everyone being comfortable working as a team and thus creating the best work. I was lucky enough that Polly Jerrold, our casting director, brought me in for this role and I was able to audition for it.”
The rehearsals for the play lasted about six weeks, but workshops, research and other preparation started a lot earlier.
“Carl and Melly had recommended a book to us called Who Owns England to give us a little bit of an idea what our process was going to look like.
“I won’t say that the book is the catalyst of this play or but there are hints of land ownership in it which we would also be exploring.”
Rehearsals for the play have been intense, said the actor, though adding that it never felt like work but rather like “we are coming together to create something that we are all really excited about”.
Although Gosrani also dabbles in music, acting has been his first love ever since he was a small child. “My mother often says how when I was like five years old, I used to imitate the referee during my tennis classes after which the coach told her to better enrol me in drama classes.”
Gosrani’s mother was born and raised in Nottingham while his father moved over to Nottingham from Kenya when he was 8.
“I always struggled in school as I feel there’s a part of me that’s always found it very difficult to engage with something that I’m not 100 per cent attached to. But then in year 10, I picked up the guitar and started creating music and also started to enjoy being on stage,” he said, adding that by 15, he had decided to be an actor though he knew from the start that it was not going to be easy.
His decision got the support and encouragement from both his parents though it is his grandfather with whom he had the “hardest conversation”, who initially couldn’t comprehend the concept of drama school and why anyone would go into the acting profession, Gosrani said.
However, after seeing him perform in The Lovely Bones, his grandfather was “over the moon” to see him do what he loves doing and getting paid well for it too, said the actor. “I could see that he was so proud and happy. He met all the cast and had the best night ever,” recalled Gosrani, adding that he passed away two weeks later.
“It was a difficult time for me, but I still decided to continue doing the show. Ironically, the show we were doing was also about a journey of grief. I was full of sadness because I lost my dada but was also full of joy that after all these years of battling with what I was doing with my life, he was able to see my professional debut,” he said.
Gosrani hopes to branch out in the coming times across mediums to tell more such stories. “I’ve been fortunate to do little bits in different mediums, whether that’s film or TV or radio. I just want to do more. I want to always be working because I love it.”
Being an actor of British Asian origin has been a “positive experience” for him so far and he does not feel that his roles have ever been stereotyped according to his ethnicity or skin colour. “I think as an industry, we are very slowly moving forward. There are a lot of incredible roles now that are not dictated by the colour of someone’s skin.
“I think what’s exciting is that I’m able to get into rooms where 10 years ago, that probably wouldn’t have happened – not because they weren’t looking for an Asian character but because they were only looking for white people. Now, there are different pathways that are being explored.
“I think it’s important for us to be able to talk about these things because people are finally finding their voice. I also don’t think that we shouldn’t be telling stories that are predominantly Asian, or by people who are brown skinned because it’s also important to keep those stories going on as well.”
Gosrani feels proud that Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-written. is “fairly represented”.
“Because the play is not set in 1800, there was no reason for people to look one way or another or to sound in a particular way. Our director was more bothered to tell a wholesome story of landownership, class divide, justice and injustice and we don’t need to look one way or another in order to do that.”
Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-written. will run in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London from June 17 to July 22.