The BBC’s flagship drama this autumn, Robin Hood, is shaping up to be great TV (so far, 2 of 13 episodes have been screened). It has taken some public flack for over-acting, but that arrow misses the mark: to illustrate from another TV series, Friends, there is the inept over-acting of out-of-work actor Joey Tribiani, and there is the deliberate, measured, over-acting of Matt le Blanc who plays Joey; the one is inexperience, the other is comedy genius. The acting in Robin Hood is ‘Matt le Blanc’ not ‘Joey Tribiani’.
Anyway, like much of the Bible, the stories of Robin Hood are myth – that is, stories, whether historical, fictional, or somewhere-in-between, that transcend their original setting and context. This Robin Hood still speaks to us today. In particular, Keith Allen’s Sheriff of Nottingham presents us with a view of law and order which, in times of war – pointedly, war against Muslims (the Crusades) – must be exercised harshly; and with certain individuals considered to be outside of the protection of the legal system, subject to imprisonment, torture and execution without trial; while innocent men, women and children may be legitimately tortured to extract information. Of course, while the character of the Sheriff advocates such a world, the work of the actor portraying the Sheriff is to do the opposite: to call such a view into question. This is how the villain of the piece operates.
Keith Allen is delicious. And he portrayed a similarly subversive Pontius Pilate in The Manchester Passion at Easter-time. It is an important role, and I thank him for fulfilling it so well.
BBC , Robin Hood , political comment , myths