Monday, May 08, 2006

"Robin of Sherwood" television series (1984)

Robin of Sherwood (1984) is arguably the best interpretation of the Robin Hood legend. Filmed largely on location in the often damp forests of England, and using an authentically young cast with broad commoner accents, this television series juxtaposes a sense of realism with mystical pagan beliefs in witchcraft. In the opening episode Robin from Loxley tries to save Much the miller's son from being caught poaching. As a consequence he is thrown into the dungeon by Guy of Gisburne, where he meets Will Scarlet / Scattlock together with various other outlaws, and hears their stories of ill treatment at the hands of the ruling classes.
Upon their escape Robin is sought out by Herne the Hunter, a pagan mystic who dwells in the forest with the knowledge that Robin is the "chosen one", the Man In the Hood, prophesied to appear and defend the rights of the people of England. Thus it is that Robin from Loxley becomes Robin in the Hood. So this Robin Hood has no thoughts of loyalty to absent Crusading Kings. His opinions are expressed clearly to the rest of the outlaws: England is being bled dry by foreign wars, and the proletariat have no-one to fight their cause. The evident sub text here being that the Christian religions of the land-owning Lords have subdued them, but the pagan spirits of the forest can set them free.
Robin of Sherwood combines in equal measure excitement, romance, and mysticism. Michael Praed as Robin Hood, and Judi Trott as Maid Marion are both excellent in their roles, but it is the villains of the piece which steal the show. The Ray Winstone portrayal of Will Scarlett is genuinely scarey, his mind half deranged by memories of how his wife was tortured and killed. Robert Addie as Guy of Gisburne is even more psychopathic in his tendencies, restoring the status of the role to that of the 1938 version; whilst Nickolas Grace as the Sheriff of Nottingham strives to match him in equally ruthless measure. Indeed, this is the first Robin Hood adaptation to enjoy both an evil Sheriff and Gisburne, and if that isn't enough then various other Sorcerers and Witches appear along the way to steal the source of the Man in the Hood's power.
Two other notable points about the series: Robin of Sherwood was the first version of the legend to introduce an Arabic outlaw to Robin's Merry Men. Nasir (Mark Ryan) was such a success the idea was "borrowed" for the later Robin Prince of Thieves, and there can be little doubt that Winstone's Will Scarlett was equally influential. Also, Clannad's enchanting electro-folk soundtrack not only enhanced the mystical quality of the story line, it added greatly to the perception that this was a renewal of the legend; a story not just intended for children, but one which harboured still contemporary adult themes. Little wonder then, that over twenty years since first broadcast, Robin of Sherwood continues to spawn websites and fan clubs across the globe. No other adaptation of the story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men of Sherwood Forest can make such a claim. (See comments box for more cast details).

More pictures from Robin of Sherwood at

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