Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Joe Armstrong as Alan A Dale.

Robin Hood is a Legend; "a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history, and to possess certain qualities that give the tale the appearance of being true or real". (Wikipedia). That status is not the consequence of one TV show that runs for a couple of years (or a staggering 5 years and 143 episodes in Richard Greene's case!) So I make no apologies for continuing to review the current Jonas Armstrong adaptation within the greater context of that Legend, and how it has developed and changed over the years. Much as I admire the work of Jonas, Lucy, and Harry, the story of Robin Hood has been around for centuries before them, and will doubtless be around for centuries to come.

Great stories thrive and survive because the basic elements of that story are solid and well constructed; each character contributing something unique, heroes and villains alike, which goes to make the group's whole greater than just a sum of their parts. And such was certainly the case with Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Occasionally, that legend will be added to, as when writer Richard Carpenter introduced Nasir, a veritable stroke of genius that every subsequent version of the legend has duplicated in its own way. And, although virtually every Maid Marian of film and television has been more than able to take care of herself with either bow or sword, Lucy Griffith's Night Watchman may well prove to be another addition to the ages old story which we will now see extended into the future. A less attractive proposition, I suggest, would be the continuation of Alan A Dale as a traitor.

Recently I wrote about mine and my readership's admiration for Sam Troughton's performance as Much. I also think the other almost unsung star of Robin Hood Series 2 has been Joe Armstrong as Alan A Dale. What a great performance.

Before Series 1, Joe Armstrong had certainly acquired more television experience than the other young cast members. The "strike a pose" directorial style of that first series (very noticeable to all of you taking screen shots!), suited Joe down to the ground. He exhibited the characteristics of a young Michael Caine, keenly aware that it's not always what you do in front of the lens, it's what you don't do, and he had the ability to catch and hold the camera's attention really well. In terms of script, his big moment came when the Sheriff of Nottingham hung his brother ahead of schedule (and ahead of Robin's attempt to save him), and it would have been nice to see that scene played out a little more. However, greater challenges were ahead.

In Series 2, Alan A Dale changed sides. We all knew he was growing increasingly concerned about his future with Robin Hood; the Lord of Loxley who would return to silk sheets and fine wines upon the King's return, leaving the outlaws in something of an unknown predicament. But we truly never expected the man who had seen his brother hanging at the end of the Sheriff's rope, to now join up with the Villains of the piece like some latter day Judas. It's still a ridiculous idea. It doesn't work. But from an actor's point of view the idea is of course manna from heaven. Everyone wants to be the baddie because of the possibilities it involves. And Joe Armstrong certainly more than rose to the challenge.

Alongside Lucy Griffiths, I would rate Joe Armstrong as the other star of the show who's performances really stood out in Series 2. Yes I hate the idea of Allan A Dale being a traitor, but the way Joe enacted the role, with his "cheeky chappie" one liners ("I'm good with nuns"), his audacious backchat with Gisborne (especially when Gisborne tells him to saddle his horse), and his opportunistic money spinning attitude, somehow seemed to stay in character with what had transpired before, and his yarn spinning linked well with the story telling Alan A Dale of legend.

Perhaps more than anything, Alan A Dale is effectively used in the show to illustrate how Robin Hood has lost the command of his men just as Much shows how Robin has lost contact with his people. As Alan says: “You’re always in the sun, Robin. I’m always in the shade”. The tension behind the two duals between Robin Hood and Allan, one above the oil vat and one in the cellar, comes from the fact that this is a fight between two men that were once on the same side. There hasn't been a fight between Gisborne and Robin to match either of those sequences (mainly because Robin runs away!), and Episode 7's sequence in the cellar is simply breathtaking.

Joe Armstrong has a solid fan base of his own. (Visit this link). Within the comments boxes of this blog he might not yet have gathered the same level of teenage attention as that bestowed on Harry and Jonas, but I'd put my money on him as a star of the future.

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Blogger robin hood said...

Robin Hood, BBC Robin Hood series 2, Joe Armstrong, Allan A Dale

6 February 2008 at 15:02:00 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).

6 February 2008 at 15:17:00 GMT  
Anonymous Rosie, from Joe Armstrong Fan Forum said...

As well as the website, we also run a very lively fan forum for Joe at:

7 February 2008 at 12:48:00 GMT  
Blogger robin hood said...

Thanks for the info Rosie.

7 February 2008 at 13:12:00 GMT  
Blogger kej said...

(I wrote a comment a couple of days ago that, for some reason, didn't show. I'll repeat it as best I can.)

One thing I think Joe Armstrong has done exceptionally well is show the ambivalence Allan feels about the position he's put himself in--or that Guy put him in, depending on how you look at it--this season. One scene in particular from late in the season brings that to mind: Guy has just casually outlined his plan to wipe out the entire gang, and the only word for the expression on Allan's face is "queasy." He protests by saying something about, "Robin, sure, but the rest of them...they're just peasants..."

He's trying to minimize the damage by doing what he's best at: he's using his patter, his charm, to wheedle, and negotiate, and to manipulate a situation. He's trying to fix the outcome so it isn't as bad as it could be. The thing is, he doesn't have the courage to stand up to Guy to try to make things right, only less bad. It's not until the last episode that we see him realize that always settling for "less bad" can eventually take away your soul. That realization, and his redemption from that realization, is itself the only redeeming thing about the finale. I'm interested to see what they do with that next year. I don't have high hopes, but I am interested.

10 February 2008 at 06:20:00 GMT  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Kej,

I share your interst in at least seeing how the Guy / Allan characters continue in series 3.

And of course one thing I neglected to mention was Allan's sudden appearance as the Night Watchman. I enjoyed that bit.

10 February 2008 at 11:19:00 GMT  
Anonymous Ashland A Dale said...

I love Allan as a bad guy because he plays both sides still (and he looks awful good in black!) You know, he doesnt take the Sheriff to the camp, or rat out Marian, but he does tell about Robin's castle secrets, and I think it gave us a good little twist on seeing things from a different point of view. I also love how he isn't too bright...seeing as the Sheriff hung him once, hung his brother, and was going to have him hanged again, and he still was on the bad side. I was glad when he went back to the light, so to speak, because I love seeing him fight with the lads.

Just a side thought....Joe is so hot!

6 January 2009 at 03:24:00 GMT  
Blogger Kathleen said...

HI, I just want to say I totaly agree with you. I just finished watching series 1 and 2 on instant netflix and I think Joe stole the second season. I thought Jonas and Lucy's performances were good where as Joe's was excellent. You could really feel his character, plus I think he is amazing handsome. :)

14 February 2010 at 19:34:00 GMT  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Kathleen.

Joe certainly was really excellent in the series. I had my reservations about making one of the "merry men" a traitor, but he pulled it off in fine style. Great actor.

14 February 2010 at 20:15:00 GMT  

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