ROBIN OF SHERWOOD: THE KNIGHTS OF THE APOCALYPSE

PrintE-mail Written by Christian Jones

Robin of Sherwood was ITV’s short-lived, but immensely popular and influential, Saturday evening drama. Originally running from 1984 until its untimely demise in 1986, due to a downturn in the fortunes of British filmmakers Goldcrest’s film arm, Robin of Sherwood was unlike any previous adaptation of the legend. This Robin Hood was gritty and grimy with flawed characters and, more importantly, liberally imbued with supernatural and fantasy elements. It was a perfect marriage of historical fact and pagan mythology, with both respected equally. Both Robin Hood legends were used too, as the first two series’ starred Michael Praed as the commoner Robin of Loxley, with Jason Connery taking over in the final series as Robin, son of the Earl of Huntingdon.

So three decades after the TV adventures ended, Robin and his outlaws make a welcome return in Spiteful Puppet’s, crowd-funded Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse audio drama. All the surviving cast members are back; Jason Connery (Robin of Huntingdon), Judi Trott (Marion), Ray Winstone (Will Scarlet), Clive Mantle (Little John), Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much), Phil Rose (Friar Tuck), Mark Ryan (Nasir), Nickolas Grace (Sheriff of Nottingham), and Philip Jackson once again plays Abbot Hugo, with Michael Craig as the Earl of Huntingdon. Freddy Fox takes the role of Gisburne in place of the late and much missed Robert Addie, Daniel Abineri takes the role played by his father of Herne the Hunter and Anthony Head plays Guichard De Montbalm with Colin Baker as Hugo De Ridefort.

The story is from an unproduced script by the show’s creator Richard Carpenter. England during the reign of King John and a dark Force is intent on conquest. Only the Hooded Man can stand against it.

The church lies impotent at the mercy of the Pope and the interdict against the Kingdom. No marriages, christenings or funerals are allowed. With the people living in fear and a series of strange disappearances that threaten the very fabric of noble society, Robin in the Hood and his band of outlaws must race to rescue the past so that the future may be protected. A journey to Huntingdon and beyond Sherwood will see them battle their most dangerous enemy yet as Herne’s Son faces The Knights of the Apocalypse.

All the ingredients that made the TV series so successful are here, the camaraderie amongst the characters, frenetic battles, heart-stopping tension, and humour. Will Scarlet and Little John’s plan to sneak into Nottingham castle, through a privy, begins as an argument before descending into course banter and childish laughter that is so infectious that this reviewer couldn’t help laughing too. Despite the intervening years, it’s as though the cast were playing these parts just yesterday, and the joy that they must have had performing together again is almost tangible. All play their respective roles to perfection and Anthony Head is perfectly cast as Guichard De Montbalm, the head of the Knights of the Apocalypse. The calm and silky delivery of his lines add a depth of menace, which is all the more unsettling being audio and not visual.

And what would Robin of Sherwood be without its haunting theme by Clannad, which naturally is present. Unfortunately, due to budgetary considerations, Spiteful Puppet wasn't able to use all of Clannad’s score. Instead composer Alexander White provides a very Clannad-esque soundtrack, which this reviewer thinks is actually an improvement.

If there’s one minor niggle, and it is minor, then it’s during some of the battle sequences. The background action is astonishing, all clashing swords, whooshing arrows, graphically violent sounding maiming, wounding and killing, but the foreground action sounds just a little too calm. Some of the characters sound quite relaxed considering they are in the midst of battle. That aside director Robert Young (who directed some of the most memorable episodes of the original show) keeps the pace brisk, never allowing a dull moment and remains true to the spirit of the TV series.

Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse has been produced as a one-off charity special with the blessing of ITV and it will be available as a deluxe three disc box set with two episodes over two audio discs and a ‘behind the scenes’ documentary DVD with extensive sleeve notes, production photos and contributions from Anthony Horowitz, a double CD set or as a digital download from www.spitefulpuppet.com. So why not revel in a classic piece of gritty ‘80s fantasy and know it’s for a good cause. Robin would be proud of you.

ROBIN OF SHERWOOD: THE KNIGHTS OF THE APOCALYPSE / CREATOR: RICHARD CARPENTER / DIRECTOR: ROBERT YOUNG / PUBLISHER: SPITEFUL PUPPET / STARRING: JASON CONNERY, JUDI TROT, NICKOLAS GRACE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


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