THE BBC’s long-awaited £8 million version of Robin Hood was previewed for the first time last night at a packed screening in London.
Despite the theft of high definition tapes, the series will begin as planned on BBC1 early next month with Lancashire lad Jonas Armstrong in the title role.
I joined the cast and crew at the preview and later spoke to Jonas and other leading actors, including Lucy Griffiths (below right), who plays a sexy “kick ass” Marian.
The Mayfair cinema screening was followed by interviews and a party for the cast and crew at the historic Banqueting House in Whitehall. Coaches were laid on to take us all between the two venues.
Sadly, the 12th century mood was shattered when our driver saw fit to blast Is This The Way To Amarillo? on the short trip around the back of Buckingham Palace, past the Houses of Parliament and to the drop off point almost opposite Downing Street.
The final part of the route was very appropriate, as the scripts draw parallels between Robin’s return from a possible unjust war in the Holy Land and events today in Iraq, along with the general modern day war on terror.
Keith Allen also confirmed when I asked him last night that he had based his character – the Sheriff of Nottingham – on Gordon Brown.
But let’s not forget this is actually a show aimed squarely at a family audience. The 13-part series is designed to follow the Saturday night trail blazed by Doctor Who and is a very big deal for the BBC. Manchester-based Time Lord writer Russell T Davies was at the launch, lending his support.
Dublin-born Jonas, 25, moved to Lytham St Annes when he was six. With Robin Hood now just a few weeks away from transmission, the relatively unknown leading man confessed: “It’s very exciting and at the same time very nerve-wracking. My parents came down for tonight’s screening and I could barely speak to them.”
The production has been filmed on location in Budapest over the last six months, where a £40,000 reward has been offered for the return of the stolen tapes. (Update 7am Saturday Sept 9th: The tapes have now been found, as you can read here)
The theft meant many members of the cast had to miss last night’s launch because they are still in Hungary re-shooting scenes, finally laying to rest claims that it had all been a publicity stunt. Those who did make it, including Jonas, were on a flying 24-hour visit home before returning to Budapest this morning.
It all led to one joker inevitably shouting out: “Someone’s nicked the tape,” when there was a slight pause between the cinema lights going down and the first episode appearing on screen.
Is Robin Hood any good? Well, let’s just say that first episode has a difficult job in having to establish the characters while setting up the rest of the series and keeping us hooked into the bargain.
In truth, there was a mixed response among my media colleagues. But it’s always dangerous to judge anything on a first episode alone. This is one show you should stick with.
I’ll certainly be watching to see how it turns out.
You can read more in the first MEN Robin Hood feature on Monday.
Click here for more details about last night’s historic post-screening venue.