Saturday, 26 January 2008

Sam Troughton is just Too Much!

This latest TV version of Robin Hood has received a LOT of negative comment recently. Most of it in response to the ending, but to be honest, quite a bit of it had been building up since about half way through the second series. So I thought I'd offer a couple of posts emphasising positive aspects which, in my opinion, continued to shine.

Sam Troughton as Much was a favourite character of mine from the outset. Troughton himself has a gift when it comes to delivering his lines, showing the comic timing of a real pro. A good example would be his comment in Episode 6, as they pass the guards dressed as minstrels. When the guard's curiosity is aroused at the unlikely sight of Little John in all that garb, Much quickly retorts "he's the drummer". And Troughton also knows exactly how to react to the teasing comments directed against him, as when the boys in Episode 3, identifying each outlaw in turn, say "oh you must be the servant".

But of course it's not just the humour that we get from Sam Troughton's character. In a series which featured only two female roles, both reluctant to exhibit their softer side in the male domain of Sherwood Forest, Much was never afraid to wear his heart totally on his sleeve. He would worry terribly about Robin Hood's often reckless courage, as when he was dodging the booby traps in Episode 2, and he would frequently seek reassurance that Robin still cared for his companionship, especially after hearing of the leader's engagement to Marian (the news of which brought unseen tears to Much's eyes). Amidst all this pathos, as Much increasingly deliberated upon his future as "the lone outlaw", it was only ever Djaq who took a moment to express her friendship and gratitude to Much with a simple kiss on the cheek.

And yet, more than all of this, I think there is another reason why Much has been so well conceived in this series:

As stated elsewhere in my Robin Hood blogs, Much was only ever a small but significant part of the legend. Whereas the other outlaws line up like a positive medieval team of super heroes; the giant Little John with his staff, beautiful Marian the spy, Friar Tuck (sadly missing here) with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other, it befell Much (the Miller's Son) to simply be the common man. Much represented what Robin Hood was fighting for; indeed the very reason he became outlawed, when saving Much from the Sheriff of Nottingham's men after being caught poaching.

All that changed of course in series 1 which introduced a new Much; Robin of Loxley's servant and subsequent Brother in Arms. But that's where the new concept gets particularly brilliant, whether by intention or default. As opposed to being the symbol of what Robin Hood's cause should be about (remember "rob from the rich and give to the poor"?), he became a barometer of Robin Hood's worth as a leader. And, I'm sad to say, this Robin Hood was found lacking.
Jonas Armstrong's Robin Hood was a poor leader of men, and one who lost sight of the common man. He neglected to pick up on the signs that Allan A Dale and Will Scarlett had such concerns about their future that Allan even deserted him altogether (both outlaws having already left him once in the past). Little John and Marian also engage in acts of defiance, trying to return to the basic cause of serving the people of Nottingham, but Robin Hood is blinkered in his blind faith that the clue to the future is King Richard. And as he looses sight of the common man it is no wonder he loses sight of Much.

When the outlaws play Djaq's honesty game, whilst preparing to make their last stand, they all nod in agreement when Much expresses his feeling that he has been taken for granted and undervalued. The greatness of Sam Troughton's Much is in the fact that he has learned from the horrors of war, and returned a better man. (Remember the tears in the bathtub at the start of series 1?)

Sadly, this Robin Hood has not. He responds to Much's comment by saying he is afraid to confront those horrors for fear it will impede his abilities to be the leader. He doesn't realise it would have strengthened them. And it is the new Much character through which we now not just illustrate what traditionally Robin Hood was all about, but judge his current failure.

Sam Troughton was absolutely brilliant at realising all aspects of his role.

Find out more about Much (the Miller's Son) on this link

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Blogger robin hood said...

Robin Hood, Sam Troughton, Much, BBC review, Robin Hood series 2, Jonas Armstrong

26 January 2008 at 20:01:00 GMT  
Blogger robin hood said...

BBC Robin Hood 2006 Cast:

Robin Hood - Jonas Armstrong
Marian - Lucy Griffiths
Guy of Gisborne - Richard Armitage
Sheriff of Nottingham - Keith Allen
Little John - Gordon Kennedy
Much - Sam Troughton
Alan A'Dale - Joe Armstrong
Will Scarlett - Harry Lloyd
Anjali Jay - Djaq

(Basic cast only).

26 January 2008 at 20:02:00 GMT  
Anonymous Annie said...

Much has been my favorite of the outlaws since season one. I agree with everything you say, Robin. I always find Much's bravery especially poignant, because Sam Troughton beautifully conveys Much's love of life and longing for peace and just a bit of comfort. Only his even greater love for his comrades allows Much to overcome his fears. Good stuff.

26 January 2008 at 23:50:00 GMT  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Annie,

Sam Troughton certainly had the ability to make the smallest of moments almost as emotional as Marian's big scenes.

27 January 2008 at 00:19:00 GMT  
Anonymous kitty said...

Troughton is an amazing intelligent actor in that he can convince the audience he is who he plays . Both his delivery and timing bring both an artistic and shakespearean element to his performence ,being one of the few actors that can offer up authenticity to the most appalling lines and situations.His presence serves as narrator ,foil and driver .Personally,I see little value in dwelling on previous characterisation or legends as they will represent the time in which they were created Much is a modern representation,his sexuality appears complicated .But his loyalty coupled with his sense of justice is not .Without Much the series would struggle .

27 January 2008 at 08:13:00 GMT  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Kitty,

Your phrase Shakespearean element is a very apt one. I can see perfectly what you mean.

When you say: Personally,I see little value in dwelling on previous characterisation or legends as they will represent the time in which they were created well, the value is that all my blogs are about the Legend of Robin hood as portrayed through the decades. I didn't start doing this when the BBC decided on a stop gap show for when Doctor Who was off the air, and I'm not a Jonas Armstrong version fan site. So comparisons and interpretations are what I'm all about. Also, "Much the Miller's Son" spanned hundereds of years. To acknowledge why I think Troughton's version is so good can only be done via an understanding of the platform he's inherited. One might otherwise suggest the guy running around with a bow and arrow has no history, but I quite like his hoodie and the way he's fighting the baddies.

Your point about his sexuality appears complicated is of course something many of us thought the BBC / Tiger Productions would pursue further. I personally wish they had. The show is aired at a time when (as in Buffy), a positive and sympathetic gay (bi?) role model is no bad thing. It would have also given Troughton that little extra challenge during those weeks when several viewers here thought he was simply complaining too much.

Without Much the series would struggle. No arguments there. I think I once used the term "the glue which held it together."

Many thanks once again for your thoughtful, and interesting input. I wonder what you'll say in future weeks to my feelings about Allan A Dale and Guy?...... but leave that 'til then....

27 January 2008 at 10:53:00 GMT  
Anonymous kitty said...

A question robin -would you have considered Armitage a potentially more considered Robin than Armstrong.?
Although I totally agree with you Historical comparisons are pertinent we can dismiss the age relective social sanizations that occur as irrelevant.
I am utterly convinced the BBC filler became bigger than anticipated , reflecting the breadth of viewer who had become acclimatized to new saturday viewing .The calibre of interested viewers that contributes to your blog supports my assertion

27 January 2008 at 14:26:00 GMT  
Blogger robin hood said...

that's a really interesting question.

I do think Armitage got a fairly raw deal with the Gisborne he was directed to play. I know not many agree with me on this.

He would certainly have been more readily accepted by the general public at the start; his looks echoing that of Richard Greene, which still persists in the minds of many. But I really like the youth, and (dare I say it?) "average" looks of Jonas. And I think the success of the series in the end was because of its youthful qualities, and the way the cast grew with it.

So it's difficult to say. I don't think Armitage would have fitted the script as written. I think it would have had to be a different approach. Something like Praed a few years down the line; no nonsence about Richard, and a lot meaner, but still "romantic".

Also, you're absolutely right about the "filler" becoming so much bigger than anticipated. Hence the failure to secure longer contract options!

This blog alone receives no less than about 300 hits a day "off season". (That's not to mention the othjer blogs). When Robin Hood is being broadcast it's always about 700. When Lucy got stabbed it was over 1,000 a time. This is from America and Australia to. So yes, the support is out there, and as you say an intelligent, thoughtful support.

27 January 2008 at 14:45:00 GMT  
Anonymous firefly said...

Personally I liked the fact that Much was always eating or hungry!

27 January 2008 at 18:14:00 GMT  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Firefly,

Absolutely!! I think he was a kind of substitute Friar Tuck in that way.

(Thanks for reminding me).

27 January 2008 at 18:37:00 GMT  

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