Next Saturday (7th October) marks the launch of Dominic Minghella’s action-packed, witty and romantic adaptation of the legend of Robin Hood.
Here’s your chance to ‘meet’ Robin, his friends and his foes:
Jonas Armstrong plays Robin Hood
Robin Hood is a clever, idealistic, selfless, dryly humorous and heroic man. Handsome, modest, a little world- and battle-weary and occasionally acrobatic, he is undaunted by authority. He is sometimes outrageously bold, but always principled. He is a noble – Robin of Locksley – who returns with honours from the Holy Land and a new perspective on fairness and the value of human life.
But the England to which he returns – particularly Nottingham – has changed. It has been corrupted by greed, crippled by taxes and shattered by poverty. The new Sheriff’s regime has become steadily more austere, and if Robin wants to resume his place on the Council of Nobles – to take back his lands and renew his stewardship of the town of Locksley – he must toe the line. For his friend and loyal manservant, Much – who is only too pleased after five years on the Crusade to put his feet up by the fire – it’s a no-brainer. But Robin can’t do it. The Sheriff immediately tests his loyalty, and Robin immediately shows his true colours. If it’s a case of condoning this regime or losing their lands, Robin is going to live as an outlaw.
Weapon of choice: recurve bow.
Sam Troughton plays Much
Robin’s man servant, Much, is sometimes daft – though there is often a truth to his lack of political correctness – forever loyal, forever hungry and forever yearning for the quiet life, the warmth of the home fire and a little well-earned luxury. He has a habit of getting himself into scrapes, from which Robin has to rescue him. He undercuts Robin’s idealism, and is the voice of reason, the voice of the ordinary man and the voice of cowardice. And yet, if Much weren’t at Robin’s side – wherever that may be – Much would wither and die.
Weapons of choice: short sword and shield.
Harry Lloyd plays Will Scarlett
Son of Locksley’s carpenter, Will is the gang’s chief engineer. He can construct anything from any material, so long as it’s wood. Robin tells him about the Saracen recurve bow he has seen in the Holy Land, and they begin to develop this weapon. Will’s family suffered during the bleak years of Robin’s absence – when Sir Guy of Gisborne ran Robin’s estates – and he’s a constant reminder of the importance of the gang’s central mission.
Weapon of choice: axe.
Gordon Kennedy plays Little John
Little John was leader of the forest outlaws before Robin arrived. A man of few words and much muscle, John has a more simplistic morality than Robin – see a problem, sort it out. But, underneath his brutish exterior, is Little John hiding a big heart?
Weapon of choice: staff.
Joe Armstrong plays Allan-A-Dale
Allan has the gift of the gab and can talk the hind legs off a donkey. He would talk the hind legs off his own donkey, and find himself having to walk, if Robin did not rein him in. He is a pathological liar, and is a good front-man for scams – particularly in situations where Robin’s face is known. He’s a passionate anti-capitalist and would not buy into the state and the rule of law even if times were more benign. Maybe Allan is just a crook. One could accuse him of that – he wouldn’t mind. He’d just carry on merrily. He’d even cheat his best friend at cards.
Weapons of choice: longbow and dagger.
Lucy Griffiths plays Marian
Intelligent, beautiful, spirited, proud, stubborn, kind, brave, meticulous, principled, honourable, critical and observant are just some words that describe Marian – a strong swordswoman who is cunning and loyal. The years of frustration may have eroded Marian’s gentleness but they have left untouched her generosity of spirit and a keen sense of duty to her people.
Marian has never really forgiven Robin for leaving her – it’s more a matter of principle than bitterness – but for her the situation is very simple: Robin chose glory over his people, pursued it relentlessly and left her to fend for herself. It was all downhill from there for, shortly after Robin left for the Crusades, her father Sheriff Edward was deposed and the new, ruthless Sheriff came to power. He brought with him a brutal regime which immediately shot fear through the hearts of Locksleyites.
Left humiliated and powerless, Edward and Marian retreat to Knighton Hall. For Marian’s sake, Edward accepts a diminished role at council, bowing to authority and now a shadow of the man he once was. In the years that follow, Marian watches helplessly as the peers who dare to question the Sheriff are summarily bumped off, and her father’s influence grows ever weaker.
Together, they learn to toe the line and in an altered, darker world, Edward teaches his daughter sword fighting, defence skills and archery, in the hope that she will have the choices he cannot offer her.
To protect her ailing father, Marian appears to have accepted a quiet role as nursemaid, and has given up her silly ideas about looking after the populace. Should she wish to change her mind, however, it is clear that her father would be the one to pay. When the Sheriff’s spies give up their watch at midnight, Marian comes out to right the wrongs of the world. She cannot be seen on pain of her father’s death, so she wears a mask and is known as the night watchman. She rides out at night but receives no approbation – only the satisfaction of knowing that a good deed has been done.
Keith Allen plays The Sheriff Of Nottingham
A ruthless, charming, ambitious, paranoid, driven, cruel, calculating, political minded, insecure, witty and devious man, the Sheriff Of Nottingham is an intelligent, highly-strung strategist.
The Sheriff’s rise to power was swift and decisive. He reduced the old Sheriff Edward’s circumstances and made it clear that any rebellion would be met with extreme force, especially towards his pretty daughter. This ambitious, cunning man needs to be feared by his people. The punishments he dishes out are severe indeed – a finger for a loaf of bread, a life for a bag of flour – yet it keeps an order in his lands, and that’s how he likes it while he concentrates on more pressing matters.
The Sheriff is a loyal and trusted follower of Prince John and understands the importance of his own second-in-command – a footpad who’ll do the heavy lifting, not ask too many questions and make him feel important and talented. Cleverly, the Sheriff awards Robin’s lands to Sir Guy of Gisborne, which boosts Gisborne’s ego as well as his loyalty to the Sheriff. Gisborne proves himself to be useful with a vicious disliking for the King.
To the Sheriff, Nottingham is not perfect but is disciplined and ruled. Economically, of course, it’s a mess because the poor are starving – taxed to within an inch of their lives and unable to trade. On his return, Robin brings renewed hope to this shire of misery. He teaches order through fairness, a contented populace and reasonable justice. He is the bane of the Sheriff’s life.
Richard Armitage plays Sir Guy Of Gisborne
Sir Guy Of Gisborne is a vain, brutal, ambitious, loyal, practical, athletic, unemotional, single-minded, boastful and frustrated man. In other words, he’s a selfish bully.
In a different world, Gisborne would be good – had he fought with the Crusaders, he would have done so to the death.
The Gisborne family were once landed until King Richard stripped them of what was rightly theirs. Robin thwarted Gisborne’s assassination attempt on the King, and it was to be Gisborne’s moment of glory. Robin’s return threatens Gisborne’s lands and sense of identity. Robin is bad news, and even if Gisborne weren’t completely loyal to the Sheriff, he’d still want to hunt and kill Robin Hood. Gisborne is capable of overwhelming cruelty in his ruthless pursuit for heritage and position yet, beyond this drive for recognition, is his one hope for redemption – Marian.