Writing bespoke pantomime script Robin Hood

Robin Hood is the fourth pantomime I’ve written for Honiton Community Theatre Company, and it’s been great fun reimagining the medieval tale for Honiton audiences in 2024.

In a matter of months we took the script from plot outline to full first draft working with Directors Josie and Lisa alongside the brilliant team of trustees to create a unique premiere for audiences at The Beehive in February 2024.

Pantomimes have lots of rules and structural elements to them which make them what they are. But the core part of pantomime that remains the same is the way it shifts and changes with the times. Robin Hood provides the perfect opportunity to spark a conversation about how wealth is distributed across society and to put the women in the tale at the very heart of the story as the merry men. As a writer, I’m always looking at ways to combine these contemporary reflections with comedy and character. That’s where the merry men come in.

The group of rebel freedom fighters who camp out in the woods has captured the imagination of generation after generation. I thought it would be fun if Robin’s Merry Men were all women in disguise. This also helpfully plays into one of pantomimes key elements: gender swapping. With a band of merry (wo)men, Marion has more agency in the story. She hasn’t been sat around while Robin’s been away, instead she’s leading the resistance movement against the Sheriff.

You may not remember a pantomime dame in other versions of the Robin Hood tale, but I’ve found room for one as Robin’s mother, and the nanny to Billie and Jack, the young children the Sheriff is tasked with looking after. The opportunity to name her ‘Mother Hood’ seemed too good to miss. She provides much of the comic relief in the show and a family lineage for Robin to hail from rooting him firmly in the local area.

There’s other pantomime archetypes too. Our magical Fairy Fern takes her name from the thick undergrowth of woodland landscapes, and we also have a merry (wo)man who takes ‘Merry’ a little too literally. Another with a thirst for blood, and a fantastic villain in the shape of the Sheriff of Honiton (for our production).

For the production in East Devon, we relocated the tale to the local area, with locations like Hembury Fort, Offwell Woods and events like Honiton Charter Day all playing an important role. We’ve also tweaked names so that we have characters like the Sheriff of Honiton, Guy of Gittisham, and Robin of Feniton. The plot maps surprisingly well, and in a cost of living crisis the medieval tale of robbing the rich to feed the poor feels more important than ever.

I hope the script provides some tickles, even belly laughter. I know the cast and crew have all worked so hard to entertain audiences. I find laughter and music are the best cure to the cold winters dark nights.

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