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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Robin Hood given modern makeover
By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood
Newcomer Jonas Armstrong will take on the iconic role

The new BBC series of Robin Hood is the latest version of an enduring legend which has been adapted for the screen numerous times.

The lavish new 13-part incarnation - which will occupy a prime slice of Saturday night TV - has been updated for the 21st Century on many levels.

Green tights have been replaced with suspiciously trendy medieval attire, including combat trousers, desert boots and even a hoodie for the lead character.

Robin Hood is played by Irish-born actor Jonas Armstrong, whose fashionably unkempt look contrasts with the gently-tousled Michael Praed, who played the hero in 1980s series Robin of Sherwood.

Climate of fear

The show, which has been filmed in high definition, is full of the expected swordsmanship, archery, fast-paced action, goodies and baddies - but the story has uncanny parallels with the war on terror and modern politics.

In the opening episode, nobleman Robin returns from a war in the Middle East to find Nottinghamshire controlled by an unpopular leader where taxes are heavy and a climate of fear reigns.

Lucy Griffiths as Marian
It feels right in a modern version to have Marian as a feisty girl
Actress Lucy Griffiths, who plays Maid Marian

Actor Richard Armitage, who plays the the Sheriff of Nottingham's henchman Guy of Gisborne, says the story is about "the perpetuation of terror" where Robin and his men are the "terrorists".

"It's in the Sheriff's interests to keep fear of the outlaws alive so he can control the populace.

"In one episode I say 'we can hold and execute outlaws without trial', which is not far removed from what's happening now," adds Armitage.

Keith Allen, who plays the despicable Sheriff - and was injured during filming in Hungary - says he partly based his portrayal on Gordon Brown due to his "cool, calculating political mind".

Comedy

Leading man Jonas Armstrong, who is tackling his first major TV role, says there is a "pressure" connected to taking on such an iconic character, but intends to make a further two series if the first proves a hit.

The 25-year-old, who previously appeared in Channel 4 series Teachers, says he is prepared for the recognition such a high-profile BBC One show will bring him.

Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage)
Richard Armitage the dark, villainous Guy of Gisborne

Another essential element of the Robin Hood tale updated for this outing is Robin's pivotal relationship with Marian, played as a raven-haired, red-lipped beauty by actress Lucy Griffiths, who says her character is "feisty" and "kick arse".

"She has been written as an intelligent, witty, biting character, and that's how I expected her to be," she adds.

"It feels right in a modern version to have Marian as a feisty girl. She has to decide between choosing love for love reasons or for security, which is a contemporary issue."

The new series promises comedy as well, in part provided by the relationship between Robin and his manservant Much, which contrasts sharply with the dark, gritty portrayal of life in 12th Century England.

But the essence of a timeless legend filled with adventure and bravery should be the stuff to make Robin Hood a hit for contemporary audiences.

Robin Hood begins on BBC One in October, and is due to air in the US on BBC America next year.


SEE ALSO
Robin Hood overcomes theft drama
08 Sep 06 |  Entertainment
Whose outlaw is it anyway?
04 May 04 |  Nottinghamshire
Robin Hood 'did not exist'
19 Jun 03 |  Wales

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