Saturday, January 27, 2007

Robin Hood. Spotlight on the cast 4: Sam Troughton.

Ask any Robin Hood fan about the opening scenes of their favourite film, and whether their preference is for Greene or Flynn, Costner or Bergin, Praed or Armstrong, they will tell you it involves Robin of Loxley coming to the aid of a poacher and thereby losing his knighthood to become Robin Hood. And according to legend that poacher was Much; sometimes Much the Miller, sometimes a young boy, Much the Miller's son. So Much is a very significant part of the legend, a symbol of all the poor Saxons of England, and thereby the person Robin of Loxley is willing to sacrifice every thing to defend. But because he is more of a symbol than an individual character, he usually disappears from the story after that point, with the notable exception of Peter Llewellyn Williams in Robin of Sherwood, where he joins the outlaws for the entire series.
When the BBC changed that poacher to Alan A' Dale, and changed Much to Robin Hood's right hand man (a role always associated with Little John, or sometimes Will Scarlet), I had very serious reservations. It seemed they were tampering with the legend just for the sake of it. But I was proved wrong.
In giving Robin Hood a less macho friend than Little John the series has been able to explore many issues which were hitherto not possible: The close friendship between two fellow soldiers returning from the horrors of war; the class divide and loyalties between servant and master; the natural jealousies that arise when friends are shared. In this new version of Robin Hood, Much has been the glue which has held the outlaws together, and Sam Troughton the actor who has practically stolen the show with the impressive range of his performance. Favourite small moments which come to mind would include the tears in the bath tub at the relief of being home and the memories of war (episode 1), the taunting of the outlaws when he mistakenly thinks it safe to do so (episode 2), his look of jealousy when Robin kisses the girl (episode 6), his shy and gentlemanly ways when sharing the bathtubs with a woman (episode 9), the deathbed scenes over Marian's body when Djaq suddenly starts thumping Marian's chest trying to revive her (episode 12), the terrible moment when Robin attacks him verbally in episode 13, only later to be the only outlaw to go and fetch their leader. It seems in practically every episode Sam Troughton has had the ability (and opportunity) to either make us laugh or cry. Before episode 9 there was a lot of debate over whether this version of Much was gay. That may still be a possibility, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if he was. For example, Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer provided an excellent positive role model as a gay character. But we don't need to know for sure. It's good to have a bit of speculation in the series.
This BBC version of Robin Hood has made two notable innovations to the series, both of which are likely to influence future films: The Night Watchman, and the promotion of Much to centre stage. Sam Troughton may not garner the same kind of female orientated fan base that certain other members of the cast do, but his performance in delivering his character has been consistently outstanding. Comparisons with previous versions are not relevant because it is such a new interpretation, but he would have certainly come out on top.

Next week: Gordon Kennedy.

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26 Comments:

Blogger robin hood said...

Sam Troughton as Much, in Robin Hood.

2:42 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

...and before anybody asks, we'll do Harry after Gordon.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous rae said...

oh i cant wait for harry's!! thankyou for putting the link up and i put up a link for your site under linkage. thanks from all the lemmings xxx

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE MUCH! he rocks. totally. YEAH!!! hes so funny and sweet and loyal. and probably one of those people that is much more atractive in person. because of his personality. claraxxx

6:14 PM  
Anonymous rae said...

who is that in the far right of the much pic?

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was wondering that to! i dont recognise him at all! clara xxx

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit that after Guy and Marian, Much is my favourite character.

I love Sam's portrayal of Much and that he is the former servant of Bobin who has now been given his "freedom" by Robin but remains his closest confidante. Although frankly, you would not know this tie has been broken (between master and servant) as Much continues to call him master and also acts as if he is in that subservient role for much of the time.

I loved Much going to get Marian in order to stop Robin killing Guy in the forest, I loved his tenderness with Eve (great chemistry between those two), I loved the fact it was HE who when Robin said "Gisborne is stealing my life" and Much said "and you must let him" because he was thinking of King Richard and his return over Marian and her wedding. As you say Robin Hood, Much can make us either genuinely laugh or cry with his antics, initially I was not sure about how his character was going to pan out the "class clown?" the "village idiot" type? Then I realised he was none of these things and he's the only one of the outlaws I would feel unhappy if they killed off - so Sam has made Much something to be valued in this show for me.

The only weak point for the character (not the actor I hasten to add), are his interactions at certain moments with Robin when he allows himself to be lied and abused far too carelessly by his "master". Robin lied to him repeatedly when fighting Guy in the forest and called him simple when he was in fact the one in the right NOT Robin. Much was viciously verbally attacked by Robin for frankly no good reason in the final episode and has had his abilities to help the outlaws (such as trying to get arrested) poured scorn on. It just seems to me that the relationship is one that only benefits Robin and he does not seem to appreciate or value Much as the childhood friend and then adult fighting comrade that he should. If they were brothers then I could almost forgive Robin for his nastiness towards him - as you would imagine that no matter what they shared a bond of blood which surpassed anything. However, Much is not blood family and everytime Robin attacks him it makes me dislike Robin all the more.

You wonder how Much maintains such a strong love and loyalty towards a man who often belittles him, never apologies for lying to him and frequently pours scorn on his intellect and values. What kind of friendship is this? We see what Robin gets out of it (the unswerving loyalty and love of another human being) but why does Much accept this abuse without asking once for a sign of contrition from Robin? For me the two characters actions in those circumstances don't ring true. The strength of friendship supposedly involved here should mean that the way Much feels for Robin should be reciprocated in some way. And so far Robin has shown none of that loyalty and love in return.

I hope in the next series we see Much taking Robin to task when he next abuses him and Robin responds as he should with an eventual apology and acknowledgement that he has hurt his friend.

Somehow I doubt it though.

Bonnie.

9:02 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Bonnie,

Very good comment. Personally I think Much is never going to strike back at Robin because the English class structure will always be firmly entrenched in his mind. Robin will always be his "master", and he'll never have the confidence to break free - even though he is obviously a brave and capable man as you point out.

Much is also the more mature of the two, perhaps having to become so at an earlier age than the priveliged Loxley.

Your comment, combined with what I said in the post, raises another issue: We are used to seeing a poacher Much rescued by Robin. But is this Much actually looking after Robin Hood? Are the roles actually reversed? Hmmm... I think there's a lot of truth in that.

1:23 AM  
Blogger robin hood said...

clara & rae,

The man on the right is the guard dragging him away from the wedding scene. No doubt one of the guards who saw Marian run off with Robin Hood and has told Guy and the BBC all about it, so she can never go back to living with her father! (I hope).

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robin Hood:

"No doubt one of the guards who saw Marian run off with Robin Hood and has told Guy and the BBC all about it, so she can never go back to living with her father! (I hope)."

You can wish for this all you like but I have a feeling come series 2 that Guy will be none the wiser (thanks to the BBC scriptwriters!) and Marian will be allowed back to Knighton Hall safe and sound with dad. Actions and the consequences of those actions often don't follow through in this show.

And I think you're probably right about Much, we will never see him strike back at Robin - in his mind Robin is still his master and will remain so for the rest of his days. Also I agree that Much is actually the more mature of the two - Robin in many ways comes across as very immature in comparison at times - but then perhaps that is what being born into privilege actually does for you compared to those less fortunate who have had to struggle?

Bonnie

3:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi
can I just respond to bonnie? (nice name!!) i think that, although Much and Robins relationship is one sided slightly, i think Robin really cares for Much. if you remember in one episode (cant remember which!) robin said something like; 'and thats why i love you' to Much.

also, like Robin Hood said (blogger) Robin is more immature, or actually he is just a bit more emotionally based more vived and (this sounds a bit strong maybe) passionate. he put he's love for Marion before the Kings return.

(which i had an issue with anyway- i know that King Richard is a herioc type of character and all that but i cant believe that a father would put the king before his own daughter marrying the man that, the night before, stabbed her in the gut, and ROBIN and the gang saved her! or that Marion would be so NICE about it! i really appreiate that the scriptors where trying to show her as honourable and understanding ('maybe Gisborne is deprived of love'- marion) but wasn't that going to far? i think that Robin almost had the right idea! i thought; yeah, thats right, go Robin!!! because he was reacting to his emotions like i would have- that was intelligent of the script writers cos it made a great contrast to all the honourable bull that was happening!! i loved the look on marions face at he alter when she realised that she had argued with her lover about a certion subject, disbelived him (Gisborne actually HAD gone to the holy land and tried to murder the king) and then sent him away!)


so anyway, yeah i think that Robin is all postering around 'the lads', however you saw his true character come out regularly- he CRIED! and was honest, and said he loved marion in front of 'the lads and ladeee' ( when they thought Marion was dead). i think that it is that postering that makes him sweet, cheeky. i loved his character- because his nasty moments with Much ( who i also L.O.V.E a LOT!) made him seem real. although, admittedly, i hated him being horrible to Much cos Much is the coolest, funniest outlaw around! so sweet. so i think you have to move to a different level to understand Much and Robins friendship, cos its complex! clara xxx

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Sadhbh said...

I love Much he is such an adorable character, one of my fav Much moments is in the first ep when he is about to start singing and Robin tell him not to.
Sam Troughton is brilliant as much, he brings so much to Much!

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some great points Clara.

I think Marian did want her father to support her instead of suddenly deciding to get pro active and confront the Sheriff but she decided that he had to the the "right" thing just as she felt she was doing the right thing by accepting marriage to Guy. Yes her "husband" had stabbed her the night before but Guy did not realise whom he was stabbing and Marian had after all been heppy to put herself in danger by robbing his house as the "NightwatchMAN" he was hardly just going to let "him" get away unscathed.

I agree with you that Robin is the more passionate figure and his decision in the end to choose to save Marian (although it was actually Much who sounded the alarm) was totally predictable for me - but equally somewhat contradictory when Robin has been carrying on the entire time about his loyalty to the King and when the "king" suddenly arrived and had to be defended he want off in a great big sulk whilst Much raced to save the day. Marian and Much were both in fact more mature in their decision making than Robin it seems to me.

Regarding your comment about Marian realising at the altar about Guy's lie. I actually took her horror to be that the lie she had discovered was that the King was a fake, Guy had known about this and her father was in immediate danger. She did say "what else have you lied to me about" but Guy did has not confessed to her as yet and she didn't have time to press further. It will be interesting to see next series if they pick up on that and what Marian does believe of Guy's actions.

I had forgotten the remark Robin made about loving Much but I remember it now. When you look back on the entire series it almost seems to me a line the scriptwriters put in as something for him to say but where are the actions that really PROVE Robin cares deeply for him after all they have been through together? For me actions must back up the lines the characters say - and that's my only gripe with the Much characterisation. It's all Much making sacrifices and doing what is ultimately best for Robin even when Robin belittles and dismisses him. I would just like to see a bit more of that "love" given the other way by Robin to Much that's all, it just doesn't make sense to me that Much is happy with that state of affairs.

I just don't see how a relationship supposedly as strong as theirs survives with Robin's repeated abuse of his "friend".

I certainly wouldn't be sticking around for that kind of punishment - then again I don't call any of my friends "master"! May be we need a "protect Much from Robin" campaign for next series.

Bonnie.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi

i think that, as i have said, robin and Muchs' friendship is complex because Much is a peasant. he has always served Robin and has relied upon Robin for food and shelter and money. yes, they are friends, but it is one sided because of class. Robin is the rich kid, and Much relies upon his 'kindness'- so he is bound to feel boundless loyalty for the one who offered up a route out of poverty.

Remember, Robin was a landowner of considerable wealth- and Much was his manservsant. so no, it isn't right that Much is treated the way he is SOMETIMES by Robin- but it would be expected and not critizised at that time. now you would tell him exactly where to walk, but i think you have to put it in perseptive with the situation and classn aspect. nowadays no-one would last long acting like Robin (or Gisborne and the sherriff for that matter!)!

i think i like the 'protect Much from Robin' campaign!

clara
xxx

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

clara, it is the episode that roy dies, episode 4 that robin says
and thats why i love you
i have been watch robin hood 2006
all week cause i had viral conjunctivitus
'och'

robin hood
are you doing a spotlight on Eve and Luke Scarrlett

jesii

11:26 AM  
Blogger Clement of the Glen said...

Sorry I haven’t been around for a while Robin, but I’ve been busy working on and re-arranging my Robin Hood Blog. I have just read through your very interesting articles on the characters from the recent BBC series. There is just one small piece that I would like to take issue with you on.

You say in your article that Jonas's small beard is perfectly in keeping with descriptions of Robin Hood in the old ballads. Sadly, there are very few details of Robin Hood in the earliest surviving ballads of a true medieval origin. Apart from being described a proud yeoman outlaw, expert archer, comly courteous and good and wearing Lincoln Green (or Graine/Red?). We have nothing else to go on, no mention of family, reason for outlawry or anything else. So as for his facial features, no. This is one of the reasons why Robin’s legend has survived all the other medieval outlaw stories. You can add things to the story and dress him up as you like, Saxon hero, noble Lord of Huntingdon, Herne’s son, Robin of Loxley, Rocket Robin Hood etc.

Your piece on Maid Marian was spot on, although I was never that keen on Uma Thurman. Joan Rice, Lucy Griffiths and Olivia De Havilland, in that order for me!

I have spent a couple of weeks researching Sherwood Forest for my Blog, with details of its original size, and its early history. I would thoroughly recommend a visit there, to all of those new BBC Robin Hood fans. The forest is absolutely beautiful and no where near as dark and barren as the forest used for the recent series. As I was completing my piece for my Robin Hood Blog site, the recent horrible gales and storms hit our country and I was wondering, as you live so close to Sherwood, if they lost a lot of those lovely old ancient oak trees?
Bye for now.

4:58 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Clement,

Thanks as always for the input. Sorry I havn't been around much to respond sooner.

The forest is fine, ut I am SERIOUSLY worried about current plans by the city council to turn the current Sherwood Visitors Centre into some kind of Disneyland Theme Park, with overhead trams and tree top walks. I kid you not. They are making a bid for lottery funding in order to do it. This will mean their bid for funding will compete against about 5 others. I fear the current popularity of Robin Hood will get them a lot of public support. But it wil destroy the ancient forest.

I will be making a protest across my Robin Hood blogs. All anyone can do if they want to support me is vote for an alternative bid.

8:55 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

EVERYBODY:

Thanks for your insightful and extensive comments. You raise some very stimulating thoughts, and as a long term Hoodie (long before Jonas came along), I've much enjoyed reading them.

Sorry I havn't always been around to respond straight away. Over the warmer months I hope to get the Robin Hood Was Here blog a bit more extensive. But one way or another, there will ALWAYS be plenty to see and read here.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Clement of the Glen said...

Why can’t they leave things alone, there has been enough development there already? If they want to make more rides and have a fun fair why can’t they extend the Tales of Robin Hood in Nottingham?

Sherwood is a truly beautiful forest, at all times of the year. On my blog I managed to map out its original size during the medieval period. It was about twenty miles long and seven wide. It must have been a fantastic site to see, with all those oak trees and imagine the bird song!

No wonder the early tales sing its praises. Anyway Robin, you certainly have my backing! Lets SAVE ROBIN HOODS HOME from the concrete, takeaway trash and all the pollution of this modern world!

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YESSSS!!! some places need to be preserved from modern technology and general 'normal life'. personally i think that nothing is wrong with a cave! good luck with that campaign.

clara
xxx

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree clara a lot of this is down to class - Robin is a nobleman a lord, Much is not. I noticed a similar thing in the fight between Robin and Guy - when Robin turned on Much and called him simple - that class thing reared its ugly head again - I am a lord and understand the complexities of politics and you Much are a peasant and therefore simple and do not. Robin may say he is an outlaw and one of the gang but his roots are still firmly bound up with that of the Sheriff and Guy in terms of class - noblemen to the core and they have that veneer of arrogance and belief in what should be their rights and that they are not simple serfs.

So Much is Robin's friend but he is also still his slave and in Robin's eyes beneath him and he treats him according to his "class".



Bonnie.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi
Bonnie,
yeah i agree. but i think that Robin is slightly better cos he tries not to be like that, but when he is stressed or really angry (like at the fight with Gisborne) class, as you said, rears it's ugly head.

RH- what are you gonna do about the whole Nottingham theme park thing?

clara
xxx

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank-you for this great site, I love reading your comments and that of others, Excellent!

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, this -again- is a very informative an interesting article and so are the replies and discussions.

I realize I am rather alone in not being crazy about Much, the character. I am always a bit torn about characters that seem to embody a lot of very good and nice character traits and seem to work as the conscience for the hero. I don´t really like this concept.

I am surprised to hear his sexuality has been discussed a lot though, because it never appeared to me that his love for Robin could be anything but deep friendly love.
Quite in contrast to a Guy of Gisborne/Sheriff scene in episode 9. The Sheriff massaging Guy of Gisbornes shoulders and he almost pleasurably closing his eyes seemed rather striking to me. Not sure this means anything though. But I thought there was actually physical tension palpable while the Robin/Much relationship always seemed warm, loving but non-sexual to me.

Ella

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm from America and have been a Robin admirer since childhood (56 in case you're wondering). I watched and enjoyed the other English Robin Hood TV shows that you previewed, and though the memories aren't clear, I do recall seeing Robin on TV in the 50's and read the wonderful book (the best) where Robin was killed by the nun and died in Little John's arms. I think you've done a great disservice to the character of Much by suggesting that he might be gay - without becoming too wordy, this shows a lack of comprehension by modern man concerning friendship. This is also the result of the gay agenda - in fighting for their rights, it's always (intentionally) out there in front, which means that we're constantly aware of it. Just as marriage takes work, so does friendship, and in this fast-paced world, many of us call 'friend' someone we tm or work beside. Anyone who acts like a true friend, like in centuries past, and they are suddenly suspect of being gay. I mean no offense to those who are, but Much's loyalty and devotion is what friendship is about if one would study relationships from the past. The English language has only one word for love - the Greeks did it best by breaking it down, and philos is the word to describe one's love for a friend. This is a good show, and though I'm not an expert, a lot of the stuff is correct for that century - let's not ruin it with a 21st century mindset.

3:26 AM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for the input.

When you say: "you've done a great disservice to the character of Much by suggesting that he might be gay" you seem to be suggesting that if Much were gay it would be a bad thing, as if being gay was "wrong". In my opinion it would obviously NOT be "wrong" or a "disservice".

Just wanted to make that clear.

11:51 AM  

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