My first impressions of the BBC’s new production of Robin Hood are not at all positive, I’m afraid to say. I’m sure readers of Thursday’s blog will not find this revelation at all startling. What can I say? Hand on heart I really did try to like it and after Thursday’s blast tried to approach the show with a completely open mind and magnanimous view point… but the constant cross-cutting and those awful location titles zinging into the bottom of the frame (accompanied by computer generated sounds of arrows flying) just got on my tits from the off.
My initial synopsis after the end titles had zapped themselves off the screen was “style over content” and after a good night’s sleep I will whole-heartedly stick with that first opinion. The acting was fine. Can’t fault any of the performances. The locations were sumptuous – can’t fault those either – though I’m not sure of the architectural accuracy of the buildings in the villages. Can every village in the 1100’s have looked like Stratford-upon-Avon?
My main problem is the awful stylisation and shallow nature of the show. It’s hard to explain why I found it all so without depth. The basic ethos of the legend is there (God knows it’s not a difficult premise) – good over evil, the defence of the poor and the oppressed, the exulting of old Saxon values over the unfair and voracious laws of the Norman conquerors – but it’s all done without any real emotional heart or true empathy.
The script felt like it had been written by Guy Ritchie in collaboration with John Ford: East End gangster movie meets wicked wild wild west western. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Robin and Much skinning up in the forest and banging some jumpin’ rave music out of a brightly painted lute. “Yo, Robby, gonna go down to see Bez after? E’s got some top E, knah what I is sayin’?”
All the Western motifs were there too – the quick on the draw bow shots (“how many arrows did I fire, kid? A full quiver or one short? Feeling lucky, huh, punk?”), the dramatic soundtrack punctuating every raised eye brow and head turn, the heroes returning from the wild and civilizing themselves once more by enjoying a hot bath… Did Saxon nobles even have baths, for God's sake? Why bother to fill a trough when you can dunk yourself in the nearest river?
Worst of all were the costumes. They just did not look right. They jarred. And most jarring of all was that of Guy Of Gisbourne. Dressed in some awful black leather duster coat complete with airplane collars he looked like he’d stepped right out of an atrocious 80’s pop video and was auditioning to join Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. This is mediaeval England for Heaven’s sake! How difficult can it be? If in doubt check out the Bayeux Tapestry!
However I’m sure the show will be a success. Why? The proliferation of eye candy. Plenty of doe eyed men for the girls and plenty of Maid Marian for the boys. Even my boy, aged only 5 bless him, was heard to audibly gasp when she hit the screen. Zounds! A bullseye! Have her in a field of poppies eating a Flake and I might be tempted to change my opinion of the show…