Thursday, March 08, 2007

Robin Hood. Spotlight on the cast 9: Keith Allen.

Whilst we all say The Sheriff of Nottingham it is worth pointing out that in the original tales of Robin Hood, Robin killed at least two Sheriffs! Or, maybe it was simply that the writers of those accounts gave different versions of how the Sheriff met his grisly end. (Beheading seemed immensely popular in those tales!) But how ever many Sheriffs there might have been in Robin Hood's day there is no doubting that the Sheriff of Nottingham was Robin Hood's arch enemy. As with Van Hesling and Dracula, Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, or Captain Kirk and the Klingons, Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham are destined to do battle across the landscape of our imaginations for all of time.
The position of Sheriff was neither by election nor Royal Appointment. One became Sheriff simply by buying the privelige with an annual sum given to the King. After this the Sheriff would be expected to earn his own income via taxes and confiscations of outlaw properties. So the system was always going to be open to abuse. In fact the most historically correct film version of the Sheriff of Nottingham could well be that of Douglas Fairbanks's silent movie: A shady yet rather non-discript character, hovering in the background, but taking every opportunity that came along to benefit himself and further his advantage.
Of all the characters in the legend of Robin Hood it is the Sheriff of Nottingham that has been portrayed with the most consistent level of excellence. The original source of much of this was certainly Alan Wheatley in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Wheatley defined the character as dastardly, scheming, cruel, and as camp as a row of scout tents. You can still see his influence in the excellent work of Nickolas Grace (Robin of Sherwood), and Alan Rickman (Prince of Thieves). But there have been other fine interpretations, such as Peter Cushing and Robert Shaw, who both depicted him as a military man in chain mail, keen to engage in combat. (Note the gory duel between Robin and the Sheriff which ends Robin and Marian).
Keith Allen, swishing about in his eastern style silk "pajamas" amongst the bird cages, still belongs firmly (I'm pleased to say), to the tradition of a dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham that we love to hate. If at times he has come perilously close to being a pantomime villian (and let's not forget this show goes out at an early hour), he has the skill and experience to pull back from the edge and get genuinely unsettling again. Who can say they weren't shocked by his early hanging of Alan A ' Dale's brother? The torture of Roy? The cutting of Marian's hair? (Not to mention the canary!)
Known to be a very creative actor, keen to explore ideas if they arise rather than simply accept a given script, his skills have proved a solid corner stone around which the younger cast have been able to develop their own craft. For example, the bedroom scene in episode 3, in which Robin Hood has the Sheriff at knife point; just look at Jonas's face. Robin Hood might have the knife, but he's not at all in charge of that situation. There's a feeling of tension there, as if neither are sure what will happen next, and they're enjoying it immensely. Similarly with Lucy Griffiths; in several episodes, when Marian stands next to the Sheriff she looks genuinely concerned and/or afraid. Understandable when you look at Keith's previous "bad guy" films! The casting of Keith Allen has been an inspired and invaluable part of the success of this series. Internet searches and fan club sites are naturally bound to revolve around the younger cast members, but Keith Allen has been the backbone of the series.

To see the place where the real Sheriff of Nottingham once lived click here. For more Sheriff of Nottingham pictures and info visit the links on THIS PAGE.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for this. It´s as usually very informative and interesting.

I must say I find this Sheriff and Keith Allans portrayal absolutely fantastic. In fact as a viewer I find him positively creepy and that doesn´t really happens to me often.

I think I am a bit put off by his eastern dressing style, but then again it does add nicely to some insane "zen"-attitude this Sheriff has going. He is so dangerous and not at all concerned. I find this rather new and really puzzling.

Keith Allens Sheriff certainly is one of my favourite characters of this show. I am really curious where the writers will go with him. Is there actually a progression towards evilness possible?


6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm unsure if there is any real progression possible in the Sheriff's character but then I'm not sure there actually needs to be for him to continue to succeed I must admit after initially not really knowing how to take his "take" on the Sheriff, I became a firm fan. Robin Hood has mentioned the Sheriff's interaction with Marian and Robin and I agree it's been great to see him go head to head with some of the much younger and more inexperienced cast members, I think they have learned a hell of a lot. However, I have to admit being a Guy fan, I've also appreciated his relationship with his main sidekick - continually oppressed and downtrodden though he may well be. I love the fact that Guy is the physically braver but mentally weaker of the two. Whilst the Sheriff though a coward physically is mentally tough as nails and always about three steps ahead of the game. Meanwhile Guy sighs and sulks in the background like a spoiled child as if wanting to plot revenge...I wish he would!

I have a feeling from interviews I've seen with Keith and Richard that they both enjoyed acting together and admire each others talents and both have had a ball playing their respective "baddie" roles each week.

I hope that in the next series we do see some development in their relationship, which though mutally co-dependent at the moment could in a second disintegrate if push came to shove...I'd like Guy and the Sheriff to be at loggerheads much more and there to be some genuine tension and danger to their relationship.

So hats off to Keith Allen, he's worked so well with all the cast and the material he has been given and often it's his performance that has often rescued many a dodgy moment in this series!


12:48 AM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Well I agree with all those points.

Bonnie, the relationship you want between the Sheriff and Gisborne sounds like the one they had in "Robin of Sherwood", in which the Sheriff always got the upper hand, but Gisborne was much more forthright in challenging him.

If there is to be no third series we may all have to settle for things as they are. Which, let's face it, is still excellent entertainment.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funnily enough I actually watched an episode of the Robin of Sherwood last night and saw Gisborne and the Sheriff in action and see what you mean. I must admit I was more impressed with Keith Allen's version of the Sheriff - I was only watching the episode in parts so perhaps that is an unfair comment. It seems as you say they have followed that same relationship from the old show, it would be nice if they could perhaps turn things on their head a little there.....if there is no third series then I think you may well be right Robin Hood and that things will stay very much as they are between the Sheriff and Guy. Still it's all good fun as you so rightly said!


10:31 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Bonnie,

Of course the great tradgedy is that Robert Addie (Guy in Robin of Sherwood), died in 2003. (Cancer). There are some nice tributes to him at YouTube.


I really must get a few new items posted soon across these Robin hood blogs. Life's been a bit hectic recently, and I've not had much time. I THINK we've dealt with all of the main cast here? I'll have to have a check. What I want to do soon is nip over to Blidworth and photograph the road where Maid Marian used to live.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I think you have dealt with them all now Robin Hood main cast wise. And it's very sad that Robert Addie died of cancer, when you mentioned him during your Guy profile I looked up his bio.


7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you possibley have any idea where i could find some transcripts for the episodes?

8:47 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

No I don't. But Paul Cornell, who wrote some of the series, has a blog at:

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how cum u haven't edited this website in ages. i'd really like to see something new here. I still think about Harry Lloyd even though i haven't seen him on tv in ages but i'm gonna watch dr who even though i don't like it so that i can see him again. i really love him. any news on him???

luv amy xxx

6:30 PM  

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