This is like stepping back in time to my teenage years when, as an impressionable 14 to 16-year-old, Saturday night was spent watching the daring outlaws of Sherwood Forest do battle with Guy of Gisborne and the Sheriff of Nottingham across England’s green and pleasant land.
First Michael Praed wore the green of Herne’s son then Jason Connery took over and for three glorious seasons there were adventures galore and pagan mysteries to delight and entertain and to be discussed ad nauseum at school the following Monday. There were debates over Praed v Connery and then there was shock and sadness when the show just ended and left cliffhangers all over The Time of the Wolf (parts 1 & 2).
So news that there would be a new audio production starring all the surviving original cast members, as well as a few big name guest stars, made me as giddy as a teenager again at the ripe old age of 46 and I ordered my special three disc collection as soon as it was available.
But does Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse live up to that 30 year longing? Well yes, it absolutely does and then some.
“England during the reign of King John and a dark force is intent on conquest. Only the Hooded Man can stand against it. The Church lies impotent at the mercy of the Pope and the interdict against King John.
“With the people living in fear and a series of strange disappearances that threaten the very fabric of Noble society, Robin i’ the Hood and his band of outlaws must race to rescue the past so that the future may be protected. A journey to Huntingdon and beyond Sherwood will see them battle their most dangerous enemy yet as Herne’s Son faces The Knights Of The Apocalypse”
From the opening words, mysterious and foreboding, setting up the premise of the adventure, we are back with the original cast as they face a new (and not related to the final episodes of Season Three sadly) threat of the Baphomet worshiping Knights of the Apocalypse, headed up by the deliciously deviant Anthony Head as Guichard de Montbalm.
This is all you’d expect from Robin of Sherwood, heroic action, double crossing, scene chewing villains and a complex plot which at times is frantic but never loses sight of the ultimate aim of good triumphing over evil which was a highlight of the TV series.
It has happiness, it has sadness but, above all, it has that overwhelming sense of hope and sheer enjoyment which came from wishing you could just – for one brief moment – walk alongside Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men, listen to Marion and Friar Tuck offering comfort to those in distress, smile at Will’s complaints and Nasir’s stoic silence (he’s learnt a bit more English since then!)
One of Robin of Sherwood’s highlights was that it was truly visual, a feast to watch given it was shot mostly on location in the South East around Bristol and in the North East up around Bamburgh and I did wonder how the audio production would cope with only having a singular sense in which to enjoy this new production.
Well fear not, the sound effects are stunning, the incidental music, while it’s not Clannad, is close enough in feel and emotion that it works well to help drive along the story narrative, and the actual quality of the sound is exceptional.
Yes it’s not the wide open landscapes or leafy forests we’d expect but the atmosphere is created of dank dungeons, fierce sword battles and mysterious cultish gods and for two hours we can live again in England’s glorious past.
Audio production from an original script from Richard ‘Kit’ Carpenter brought together by Barnaby Eaton-Jones/Spiteful Puppet, directed by Robert Young and with sleeve notes from Anthony Horowitz and Andrew Orton, music from Clannad (theme tune Robin, The Hooded Man) and Alexander White @ Arpeggio Creative.
Jason Connery (Robert of Huntingdon)
Judi Trott (Lady Marion)
Clive Mantle (Little John)
Ray Winstone (Will Scarlet)
Nickolas Grace (the Sheriff of Nottingham)
Mark Ryan (Nasir)
Phil Rose (Friar Tuck)
Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much the Miller’s Son)
Freddie Fox (Sir Guy of Gisburne)
Philip Jackson (Abbot Hugo)
Daniel Abineri (Herne the Hunter)
Michael Craig (the Earl of Huntingdon)
Barnaby Eaton-Jones (Camville)
Anthony Head (Guichard de Montbalm)
Colin Baker (Gerard de Ridefort)
Terry Molloy (Prior/ Old Prisoner/ Priest)
Lisa Bowerman (Serving Maiden)
Michael Praed (Spectral Voice)
All other roles: Sophie Jones, Gary Andrews, Ian Kubiak, Kate Young, Cliff Chapman, Ben Perkins, William KV Browne, Nathan Drake, Rob Brunwin, Robert Barton-Ancliffe, Iain Meadows and Jonathan Allen.