Aperture Africa productions has been consistent since I first saw their grand performance of The Jungle Book, the musical just a year ago.
Amar Desai, his wife Jinita and his whole team do everything in high style. From the colourful costuming, choreography and elaborate set design to the special effects, live music and magical moments when one can see children enthralled by the lively events happening on and off stage, Amar as director made the whole show blend together beautifully. That was true for The Jungle Book, the musical just as it was last weekend when Robin Hood charmed the children from start to end.
One must take special note of the large numbers involved in such a show as Robin Hood. Amar doesn’t seem to do anything in a minimalist fashion. His orchestra headed by Andrew Tumbo was substantial and well-rehearsed. My only disappointment is their being tucked away up in the balcony so we the audience had no chance to actually watch them perform. I personally love live performances but logistically, their upstairs station was understandable.
The Chandaria stage at Oshwal Centre is vast. But it was just the right size to fit in Sherwood Forest as well as a village market, a cosy dungeon and even a ‘throne’ double-decked above the dungeon. That was where the Sheriff (Bilal Wanjau) had a chance to watch the village below as well as woo Lady Marion (Maya Spybey). But she was utterly disinterested in the advances of this naughty police.
Only the Sheriff’s team of soldiers were few and certainly no match for the renegades working closely with Robin Hood (Tirath Padam).
Otherwise, the cast of Aperture’s musical was huge, including an incredible crew of talented children whose performance clearly inspired countless youth who got actively involved in the production, both by climbing out of their seats to collect the candy tossed to them from the stage and by getting right up on the stage once they saw a signal at the show’s end when they were apparently invited to join their peers and dance along with the whole cast.
Robin Hood was ultimately a joyous affair, despite there having been several dark moments, as when Robin and his fellow outlaws went into battle with the Sheriff’s troops. Such times seemed just a touch too violent for my taste. So was the time when Much (Chandhi Vaya) was being tortured. And so were the scenes when the Sheriff’s men roughed up the locals. It was just a wee bit too scary for me.
But on the other hand, my favourite character in the whole of Robin Hood was the Sheriff, Mr Nasty himself. Bilal Wanjau was delightfully wicked and an unbelievably bad bully to all except for Marion, of course. But even she fell fowl of the Sheriff once she refused his marriage proposal. Her heart was already bound to Robin’s.
The one scene that was beautiful but a little overdone was the love scene when Robin and Marion were ‘alone’ and yet surrounded by dancing white-winged angels. As I said, their dance was beautiful to watch but it defused the passion of the lovers’ moment.
Then again, perhaps that was the point, given the musical was meant mainly for children who don’t have to get acquainted with the way lovers have moments alone.
In any case, the choreography of Robin Hood was impressive except that I wished the fight scenes looked a little less brutal. Otherwise, Aperture Africa deserve all the support they receive from the local business community for its musical extravaganzas that never fail to entertain. I applaud the Desai’s for their professionalism and theatrical excellence.