IT IS the classic tale of Robin Hood but with a difference – a menopausal Maid Marian is now divorced from her outlaw love and the Sheriff of Nottingham has her in his sights, having been released from a 10-year prison stretch.
Welcome to Ha Ha Hood! and The Prince Of Leaves – a re-imagining of the Sherwood Forest tale told by the team who brought us Ha Ha Hamlet!, Ha Ha Holmes! and Ha Ha Hitler!
Hood has veteran comedy actress Su Pollard as Marian, while comic duo Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball both double up as the Sheriff and Little John, and Friar Tuck and Guy of Gisborne respectively.
“My Marian is really independent, ballsy and brave,” says Su, beginning to explain the differences between this comic creation and the original tale. “She’s very to the point and strong willed. I far prefer playing a character like that to a poor princess who whimpers and simpers all the time. I can’t wait to get hold of this character!
“After her divorce from Robin 10 years ago she thought ‘Get a proper job. I don’t want to be with a bloke who wants to live in the forest up a tree!’. So she’s currently working as an NHS nurse at the Nottingham Infirmary. Also, I’ll be talking in a proper Nottinghamshire accent.”
Ha Ha Hood! is set 10 years after the stories of robbing the rich to pay the poor and Marian and Robin are no longer an item, but Su says: “Marian still has a spark glowing for Robin.
“They never resolved things between them – you know those terrible divorces where the couples don’t talk things through?
“There was no marriage guidance back then. But when she learns of the Sheriff’s plot they are thrown back together again as they team up to save the citizens of Nottingham.”
Su, still best known for her portrayal of the hapless Peggy in TV sitcom Hi-De-Hi, says she’s loving getting to grips with the legend of Robin Hood – and audiences are loving it too. “It’s a huge favourite because it’s an eternal myth,” she explains.
“The characters have been portrayed in so many different ways throughout the centuries. Audiences know exactly what the story should be, but they don’t know how it will be interpreted. I think it’s enduringly popular because of that.”
Robin is played by Ben Langley, who is the writer behind the whole Ha Ha! series, and Su says: “He’s a great writer. He did 20 years as a street performer in Covent Garden, and all his dialogue succeeds because he had to learn and adapt to how to relate to audiences on the streets.
“He’s taken all that experience and put it directly into his writing. That’s why it’s so strong and so believable. Ha Ha! shows are so successful because even though they are parodies the subjects are still treated with respect.
“This particular script has been slaved over for months because Ben wants it watertight. As we rehearse, he says ‘If that doesn’t work, we’ll replace it’ which is a great creative formula.
“Now the Ha Ha! productions have become shows that everyone wants to be involved with and which audiences return to see time and time again.”
SU POLLARD will star in Ha Ha Hood! and The Prince of Leaves at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking on Monday, November 10.