Iain Meadows | ROBIN OF SHERWOOD

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Since its original broadcasts back in the 1980s, Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood has only grown in reputation. Weaving together the legend of Robin Hood and fantastical elements and grounding them in a gritty and complex world, it’s one of the finest British series yet made. When production company Spiteful Puppet announced plans to reunite the cast for an audio production of an un-produced script by Carpenter, the crowdfunding campaign reached its target in just 24 hours, showing fan support for such a project was strong.

When The Knights of the Apocalypse was released in 2016 it was met with positive reviews and an enthusiastic response from the fans that had supported the development. Recently Spiteful Puppet announced that a new full audio series featuring the original cast is in the works. We caught up with Creative Director Iain Meadows to discuss how the first project came together, what to expect from the upcoming new series and how fans can be part of the process.

STARBURST: Robin of Sherwood is a very fondly remembered show and one the cast seemed to love being part of. What was the process like getting the Knights production together and reuniting the cast members?

Iain Meadows: The Knights of the Apocalypse was a huge achievement, firstly because I don’t think anyone ever thought it could be done and then secondly, there were so many logistical challenges. The timing just seemed to fit though, some 30 years after the show ran it’s course on television, suddenly there was Richard’s un-filmed script, which of course Barnaby (Eaton-Jones) the producer, saw the potential for as an audio. The cast were very up for coming back and hugely supportive, and the fans, well when you look at how the crowdfunding went, it just goes to show how fantastic the are and the incredible depth of feeling and love that there still is for the show.

The schedules were pretty tricky, trying to get everyone together at the same time proved impossible, so we had to record across five different sessions in the end, but because the cast know each other so well, and with Robert Young (who was behind the camera for some of the most memorable episodes of the original show) returning to direct, it all fell into place. I think each of the sessions showed just how good the cast were and how much fun they had and still have when they’re together.

In post production we had to sound match all the different takes from different sessions and in one memorable scene, Ray (Winstone), Clive (Mantle) and Mark (Ryan) were all recorded separately and then mixed together later, but their knowledge of how they would react to each other in a scene went a long way to helping that process, plus Barnaby was in a little booth reading in all the other lines and doing a really good job of giving them something to bounce off of. All in all, it was a cracking thing to be a part of.

The funding campaign for Knights was very successful, for what was initially a one-off tribute to Richard Carpenter. How did the response to the campaign feel for the team putting it together?

The crowdfunding just flew and I think it’s fair to say that there was perhaps a little surprise at just how quickly the initial budget was met, but in a good way. The team always held a belief that the fans would respond but talking to Barney about this, 24 hours was just one of those jaw dropping moments.

Reviews for Knights were all very positive. Were there plans for following up before its release and if not when did the idea come about?

I think that Barney and I probably thought that there was potential for more when we were in pre-production, and so we tentatively set about asking ITV if it was possible, but at that time, supportive as they were of the production, especially as it was for charity, it was really a one off they said. As we were going along and more and more people started to ask about the possibility of more, we really had to play that down because we didn’t want to get anyone all fired up for nothing. After the release though, it became apparent that there really was quite the appetite and I have to say that after a bit more conversation ITV became incredibly receptive and really are the loveliest people to work with.

With the new series being original, there are challenges honouring the original show and taking it forward in a new medium.  How are the team focussing on doing that?

Richard gave us a wonderful world to inhabit with brilliantly rounded characters, some of whom still have room to grow because of the nature of their age and experiences within the context of the show, and I think as long as you remain true to that in the sense of both paying attention to the historical foundations and then the fantasy elements that he brought to the mix, it’s easier to produce something that fits the style of the original. The writers are people who are fans but not so blinkered that they lose sight that you need to be able to take a step back and remember that you have to write for everyone. You also have to write for audio and although that sounds like common sense, because it was such a visual show, you have to think how elements, especially the more fantastical, can be transferred to that medium.

You've got Jason (Connery) and Michael (Praed) involved and other cast members too.  How are they all feeling about getting back to Robin of Sherwood and creating something new?

Well the cast are just brilliant because they were all up for doing more, I think Judi (Trott) even asked at the Hooded Man convention that Barnaby runs, if there would be more; of course at the time, we couldn’t say if there would be, but it was clear that there was a desire to be a part of further adventures if it were possible. The only barrier is the fact that as they are all hugely successful and have gone on to do various things, in and out of acting, it’s scheduling that can sometimes hold things up, but we usually find a way of making things work.

Your production relies on the support of fans to be as expansive and fully realised as possible, how can they get involved in supporting it?

The fans are crucial because their support means that the production goes ahead and at the moment, pre-orders are open at https://spitefulpuppet.com/shopp.php

What are the hopes for Spiteful Puppet going forward with Robin of Sherwood, in respect of further series or spin-offs?

After this initial set of new adventures, if it proves to be a success, there are so many possibilities; of course, there are some loose ends that Richard never got round to tying up, and the potential for a big arc to take that through to its logical conclusion. One question many have asked is what happens after the end of The Knights of the Apocalypse? The great temptation is to run away with yourself and for the moment, we’re just focussed on this new box set and offering people more adventures with old friends, but all the possibilities are there on the horizon!


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