Robin of Sherwood: Cult show returns with fan-funded drama

Robin of Sherwood cast Image copyright Rex Features

After a gap of three decades, the cult TV series Robin of Sherwood has made a comeback, in the form of an audio play. Reuniting its stars, among them Ray Winstone, Jason Connery and Clive Mantle, the trip down memory lane has been made possible through a crowdfunding scheme. But why did actors who have gone from success to success in the years since agree to take part?

The distinctive synth sound chimes as the ethereal music of Clannad emanates from the TV: "Robin, the hooded man". It's a Saturday evening in the 1980s and time for a weekly fix of Robin of Sherwood.

For many people of a certain age the ITV programme was a must-watch. Now, a new two-hour-long audio drama, featuring original cast members including Winstone, Connery, Mantle and Judi Trott has been made.

The Knights Of the Apocalypse is based on an unused original script and was crowdfunded by fans of the series.

So why is there still so much love for a show which only ran for three series between 1984 and 1986?

Image copyright Kim Jones
Image caption Judi Trott and Jason Connery have reprised their roles for the new drama

Jason Connery, who played the hooded man in the final series, says it is because it is a "universal story that generations can pass down".

"Many fans come to me and say they watch the show with their kids, and in some ways, with it being period, it never ages, unlike us.

"The new audio play is a gift to the incredibly loyal fans who are very excited to have another story to listen to."

The original script, which has been tweaked slightly for the audio play, was penned by the show's creator and writer, Richard "Kip" Carpenter, shortly after the third series ended. However, it was never filmed as the show's production company went bust and a fourth series was cancelled.

Carpenter died in 2012 and profits from the new production will go to charities he supported.

Winstone, who played Will Scarlet, says the TV show was "a class bit of telly, shot beautifully" and the storylines "were great".

Image copyright Kim Jones
Image caption Ray Winstone said recording the audio drama "brought back lots of great memories"

And the actor, who went on to become a Hollywood star, says it was a benchmark for his career.

"It was a chance to work with fine directors, crew and a group of actors who were second to none.

"Also the series was shot like a film. I learned a lot.

"I really enjoyed the day [in the recording studio], it brought back lots of great memories. Nothing's forgotten. Nothing's ever forgotten."

The TV series was filmed in various locations, including Wiltshire, Somerset and Northumberland.

Image copyright Kim Jones
Image caption Connery said the play was "a gift to the loyal fans" of Robin of Sherwood

All surviving members of the main cast took part in the new recording. Even Michael Praed, who played Robin in the first and second series, features as a "spectral voice".

Trott, who played Lady Marian, says there was "nothing quite like it on the telly" back in the 1980s.

"It was a magical combination of historical heritage mixed with folklore and action that appealed to both men and women, teenagers and kids.

"I hope the new audio drama will bring back many happy memories for the people who listen to it.

"It was a real treat and honour to be part of it and work again with so many of the original cast. It was like slipping back in time."

Similarly, Mantle, who played Little John, says he was "lucky and privileged" to be involved in a "classic for a generation".

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption Michael Praed played Robin in the first two series

"In fact it was so well made, it has gently spilled over to subsequent generations and that causes great pride and pleasure to all of us involved in the production. It had huge heart at its centre.

"I hope it will sound amazing. I am looking forward to hearing it. As soon as Clannad's theme kicks in we will be in safe hands."

The cancellation of the fourth series left a number of loose ends in the plot.

"When it went it did leave people wanting more, and to be able to bring it back for people to enjoy and perhaps get some answers as to what happened after that unresolved series three ending, is all the motivation you need," says Gloucester-based producer Barnaby Eaton-Jones.

"The production was fully crowdfunded within 24 hours which tells you something about the passion felt for this show."

The Knights Of The Apocalypse is available as a digital download and on CD from 30 June.

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