GISS spins hip hop into Robin Hood

ArtSpring show runs Jan. 8 and 9

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Any tale about the widening gulf between rich and poor and the uprising of a disenfranchised group against a corrupt power structure has a certain timeless appeal.

The formula could be expressed as forest bandits robbing members of the ruling class and redistributing their wealth to those in need during 12th century England, or it could be youth using their gift for rhymes and beats to rise above ghettoization in 1970s urban America. It could even be a classic kung fu movie fable. 

Gulf Islands Secondary School’s senior acting class has brought elements from all three scenarios to their unique retelling of Robin Hood, which busts onto the ArtSpring stage for two shows beginning tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 8. The bandits’ lair is not in the forest but on a rooftop base on the corner of Sherwood Park and Nottingham streets. With vivid costuming, original rap songs and choreography, this update of a classic promises to offer spectacular entertainment with a message.

The specific interests of this year’s senior acting class helped decide which play they would produce and which themes they would incorporate in their interpretation.

“I think this group in particular had a desire to do something fun and fantastic,” said Kahlila Ball, who plays the title character. “We read through a few different shows and when we settled on this it was a very unanimous ‘Yes, we want to do this.’”

Tex Simon noted the class was discussing doing The Outsiders at one point, but also thought about source works like Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451.

“I think this incorporates both those things by having a political message behind it that we were looking for, and also having the same kind of style that we were looking for in The Outsiders,” he said. 

The connection between kung fu and hip hop includes artists like the Wu Tang Clan members, who were inspired and uplifted by movie legends. That mythology has been extended through projects like The Get Down, a Netflix series set in The Bronx of the 1970s during the clash between disco and hip hop. That series has provided inspiration to the GISS students along with martial arts movies like Kung Fu Hustle. 

The students feel there is a natural link between those worlds of stylized battles, as well as an analogue to a modern world run by corrupt billionaires. 

Essentially the play is about the importance of community and the way people can form strong units of chosen family, without having to be actually related to one another. These are themes the students find easy to express, since the members of the ensemble each have much to contribute to the whole.

Robin Hood opens at 7:30 each night, with tickets available through ArtSpring. The class will be accepting nonperishable food items and toiletry donations for families in need at the show. Partial proceeds will also go towards the purchase of Thrifty Foods Smile Cards.

For more on this story, see the Jan. 8, 2020 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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