Saturday, January 13, 2007

Robin Hood. Spotlight on the Cast 2: Lucy Griffiths

Prior to Robin Hood being broadcast Lucy Griffiths was keen to point out that her Maid Marian was not going to be a "damsel in distress". What she didn't realise was that Marian has never been just a damsel in need of rescuing. Maid Marian was a combination of English Rose, and original Spice Girl. But it is true that the tales of Robin Hood give so many conflicting versions of Marian (and that differing film versions have only ever selected small details from these), that it has become difficult to bring the whole person into focus. However, one can edit all these various accounts down to a now commonly accepted portrait, and see just how Lucy Griffiths provided such a fine portrayal of the role.
As the title "maid" suggests, Marian was in inexperienced girl, very much of the people and for the people. America's Hollywood got it totally wrong when they escalated her status to that of an aristocratic Lady. In that respect Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's awful portrayal of Marian in Prince of Thieves, and Olivia de Haviland's faintly ludicrous parade of exotic gowns in the Adventures of Robin Hood, both fell wide of the mark. Joan Rice helped restore credibility to America's vision of Robin Hood's mate when she donned the Lincoln Green herself to romp alongside the outlaws through Sherwood, but far better still was Patricia Driscoll's British T.V. version of 1957. Here was a Marian who was not only an expert archer and spy, but also a ruthless protector of the Saxon peasantry, more than willing to hold a dagger to the throat of anyone threatening her man, whilst at the same time beguiling the Sheriff of Nottingham with her charms and keeping secret her links to the outlaws. Later versions of note would include Judi Trott, who actually lived in the forest as a known outlaw with Robin Hood and his men, and Uma Thurman who dressed as a boy to find out more about the man in the hood; (a personal favourite and easily the best non-television Maid Marian of all time). And so you can see, "damsel in distress" is just not what Maid Marian has ever been about.
19 year old Lucy Griffiths successfully portrayed a credible background to the Marian character: An inexperienced girl whose position in life was raised by the election of her father to the status of Sheriff, but who never forgot her roots among the less privileged people she strives to help. Lucy's Marian is also a girl who's first love went off to war leaving not just her behind, but an England increasingly divided in the King's absence by Norman influences; something neither she nor the common people around her would ever fully accept or understand. Lucy did an excellent job of expressing this confusion and unrest, especially during her confrontations with Jonas, where she tries to find justification for his actions in joining the Crusades when so many at home needed him (including her). This questioning attitude is also well expressed in her "generation gap" arguments with her father whom she clearly respects and seeks to defend, even though his "old school" anti-feminist attitudes attempt to suppress her. (One can't help but feel that her father really wants her to marry Guy and settle down on the winning side of the privileged classes). But not only is Lucy’s acting so convincing in this respect, so is her whole screen presence; she seeks not to be glamorous, but simply the "good looking girl next door", exuding a very strong physical presence, rather than the token girlie. This of course has been essential in developing the main innovation the BBC have brought to the series, that of her "secret identity the Night Watchman. Lucy has succeeded in this challenge because she is able to convey how the Night Watchman is first and foremost an expression of Marian’s own conscience and concern for the suffering peasantry, only resorting to fighting when absolutely necessary. And what a fighter! Whilst, during the 1980's, Judi Trott remained fairly swan like and elegant in the midst of battle, one gets the feeling that if Lucy punched you you'd certainly know about it! (I think she could even take Djaq in a straight fight!)

Where criticisms have been directed at this BBC version of Maid Marian they have mostly centred on her "Top Shop" style wardrobe. But that criticism can also be levelled at Guy "the Matrix" Gisborne, or Sheriff of "silk pyjamas" Nottingham, or even Little "have you seen my Harley Davison anywhere?" John! At the end of the day the "Lucy Look" became an entertaining and popular aspect of the series, and something which never distracted from her acting. A lot has been written about her emotional scenes with Jonas, and rightly so, but I would also draw attention to her encounters with Keith Allen. Although much briefer on screen, Lucy's facial expressions subtly convey a sense of genuine fear at the Sheriff's presence. (And where Keith Allen is concerned who can blame her?) The writers gave Maid Marian more opportunities to shine than any of the rest of the cast during series one, and Lucy Griffiths was not found lacking. As with Jonas Armstrong, her character incorporates many themes which have been explored before in Robin Hood filmdom, but she has still made the role her own and I would rank her alongside Patricia Driscoll and Uma Thurman as one of the three best Maid Marians of all time.

To see the place where the real Maid Marian lived click here.

Next week: Richard Armitage.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger robin hood said...

BBC Robin Hood 2006 Cast:

Robin Hood - Jonas Armstrong
Marian - Lucy Griffiths
Guy of Gisborne - Richard Armitage
Sheriff of Nottingham - Keith Allen
Little John - Gordon Kennedy
Much - Sam Troughton
Alan A'Dale - Joe Armstrong
Will Scarlett - Harry Lloyd
Anjali Jay - Djaq

(Basic cast only).

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great biography and i really love this website. Who are you gonna write about in your next article?
luv amy xxx

6:15 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Amy,
Thanks for the kind words.

I thought next week I'd do Guy of Gisborne. He's an interesting character because, until Hollywood came along, he wasn't really that important. Also because, out of all the characters in series one, I felt he..... well, let's wait until next week before I say anything!

I'll try and get some new pictures up tomorrow for everyone.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just wanted to say i totally agree with this blog, Lucy rocks as marion!! she is so understated on this site (not by RH, you are very fair!) so YAH for Marion! i think that Robin, Marion and Much are my favotite characters because they are so delisiously complex. much more so than the usual characters in 7 a clock shows! i mean they are much more 'deep' (LOL) than the other characters such as Will, Alun and Little John. im not saying little john and Will and Alun arnt great characters, they are, they are just less complex. Will is understandibly mad at the sherriff, Alun is a pathalogicla lyer, but oh-so-good and Little John is gruff but kind.
the chemistry between Jonus and Lucy was phenonemal, and certainly kept me on tender hooks!! i have to say that for me the cast and some of the episodes were the best ever! unbeatable. some people were saying on the official website by the bbc that robin was 'a puny little man' and 'i wished marion had married gisborne'. WHAT!!! they are obviously blind to the fact the gisborne ordered Pitt, his faithfall 'friend', to be killed infront of him! or that he kills so easily, without blinking, or drags young and crippled boys away from they're screaminng mothers!! PAH! sorry for ranting Xi love robin hood lolX claraxxx

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

luv amy xxx

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Robin Hood for replying so quickly and and can't wait for the pics that your gonna put up tomorrow
luv amy xxx

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you that this Marian is no "damsel in distress", I note you mentioned her scenes with the Sheriff and I agree she is great in those too along with of course Robin. However, I'm surprised you did not mention her scenes with Gisborne which have played out like some "anti" love story. I really liked the way Lucy has portrayed her when dealing with him - the fear, the trying to understand, the deception, the anger etc as Guy tried to relentlessly pursue her in all manner of different ways. In fact this often kept me more interested than the ongoing supposed love story between Robin and Marian because that was a more guarded affair until the very end when they finally admitted their love for each other.

You put this portrayal in the top three as you did Jonas for Robin, high praise indeed. I felt that in the beginning that Lucy's inexperience as an actress told in certain scenes - especially against the more experienced actors such as Allen and Armitage. I think for me she has improved the most in terms of her capacity to create the character that appears on the page after a somewhat slow start, she is now one of my favourites. I look forward to seeing where Marian ends up next series - in the forest or still at home?

I'm an avid Guy fan so I'm awaiting with keen interest what you are going to say about Richard Armitage's performance and whether you think it's good, bad or indifferent, especially after your teaser on this blog.

Love your site, keep up the good work.

2:14 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi anon.,
Regarding Lucy, I think we're both agreed that yes she showed signs of lesser experience at the start (understandably so) but that she measured up to the faith the casting people had obviously placed in her after a couple of episodes.

It's amusing looking through the 1950's Richard greene Robin Hood dvds and seeing "unknowns" like the great Billie Whitelaw jumping around with a bow and arrow. The mark of a true actor is that they fulfill their potential and progress. Everyone has to make a start somewhere. (Sean Connery and Tony Curtis were once just pin-up boys).

I am also a Richard Armitage fan, especially liked him in the Impressionists, but......

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't agree that the gisborne-Marion relationship was MORE exiting, i think that Gisborne made marion and robins' relationship more taunt and therefore better to watch. fabby, i still can't quite get 2006 robin hood out of my head!! clara xxx

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I meant that it was more exciting per se, just that I found it more involving and intriguing and very tense at times! I loved the directness shown by Guy in his attempts at obtaining Marian compared with the more guarded and sarcastic at times Robin. You just knew it was going to be a long and drawn out saga with these two because you could see how the writers were trying to drag the inevitable (Robin and Marian really love each other and are together) out for as long as possible to keep the audience in suspense. Guy's involvement gave an added frission to the proceedings with Marian and Robin - all to the good I would suggest, without him in the mix they would have needed something else to keep that going as long as they did. I'm definitely with you on your last point clara, I have really loved the show and miss watching it every Saturday!

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi anonymous
yeah i get what you mean, i agree that Gisorne made robin and marions relationship more exiting, and i enjoyed the tension and marion's obvious hatred of Gisborne, and her forced understanding when she commited herself to gisborne for life.

it made me almost giggle when she was all 'maybe he is just deprived of love' WHATEVER, i guess im just a romantic! also i think jonus is cute lol, he acted so so so well, so did Richard Armtitarge and Lucy Griffiths, amazing cast.

also i think she honestly believed that robin was wrong about Gisborne in the holy land, and she looked mortified at the alter when she realised that Robin was right- she was not only about marry a man that she didn't love, but she had argued with her real lover just before her wedding, defending Gisborne! i was so happy when she finally let Robin whisk her away, and kiss her!! Ahhhhhhh . . . i hope the next series is as the first. . . claraxxx

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i luv lucy griffiths as marian as shes really independent but still keeps going back to robin in the end. the chemistry is gr8 nd i reli miss seeing it on a saturday nite . it wass the best . im even buying the dvds to stop the withdrawal symptoms lol. sad i no but i cant help it!!

8:23 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Absolutely, Maid Marian is a brave and feisty character, and the Lucy Griffiths incarnation does not disappoint in that sense.

I have to argue with your claim though that making Marian a noblewoman was a product of Hollywood writers. Since Marian was introduced into the legend, she has appeared in various tales as a lady of rank as often, if not more so, than any other way. That is what makes her decision to work with or even join the outlaws so much more a brave and honourable move.

Which brings me to Olivia deHavilland. I personally feel you were a bit harsh on her characterisation. Costumes aside, because the fact that this particular movie was made in Hollywood in the 30's meant that of course they were going to be a bit extravagant, but her's in particular were fairly accurate in a historical sense.
To introduce a little reality, in Robin Hood's era, women were property that could essentially be bought and sold, with few rights and very little respect. For a woman, but especially one of rank in such a precarious position, to speak up against a man, especially men of power, as she does several times, and to act as a spy for outlaws, is nothing short of heroic, and deHavilland was able to show Marian as both a true lady and a real heroine. Wide of the mark? I think her Marian is to date the one that best combines historical accuracy with the romanticism of the entire Robin Hood legend.

3:01 AM  
Blogger robin hood said...

hi Erin,

Always nice to get opinions from other Robin Hood fans.

My enthusiasms for "the man" are based on the entertainment the legend continues to provide, and the belief that the root core of that legend is the Pagan Green Man, combining with the realities teenagers being "outlawed" centuries ago.

So that's really why I don't buy into Marian being from the aristocracy. But yes, I maybe went a bit too far in blaming Hollywood for that myth. As you say, the whole Fitzwalter link was around before Errol or Costner.

I also reject the whole Loxley, King Richard links. Entertaining though they certainly are.

However, with the world situation as it is, I think we could have well done without a new Robin reviving thoughts of the Crusades. That's why I still say Robin of Sherwood is the definitive interpretation.

8:30 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...


You will also be aware that, in some of the early stories, there are even suggestions of a "romantic" / sexual link with the naughty Friar!

I guess in the end one takes one's choice.

8:32 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home