While driving to and from work and wanting to distract myself from the news on the radio, I decided that my ears were in need of a Richard Armitage fix. Somehow the British male voice that I’d selected for Siri on my iPhone just didn’t do it! So, not wanting to re-listen to the Heyer books right now, I bought the audiobook of Robin Hood, Episode 1, “Will You Tolerate This?”. While not a really lengthy listen, it kept my mind off the news for a good hour and a half!
Narrating the novelization of these first four episodes for BBC Audio was one of Armitage’s first experiences doing this type of work. The audiobooks come across as exciting boys’ adventure stories, with plenty of humour and a touch of romance. The rousing Robin Hood theme song, of course, adds to the excitement, as does Armitage’s faster-paced reading of the action sections of the stories. The volume and sound quality is a bit uneven, whether due to the production or due to Armitage’s relative inexperience, but not enough to make the stories hard to listen to.
These audiobooks were recorded in late 2006, while Armitage was working on the BBC Robin Hood TV series as Sir Guy of Gisborne. There was a certain advantage to this timing. As he said in an interview on the 4th CD, “I still had all those characters very clearly in my head, although I didn’t really try and do impressions of the actors that I was working with.” (Quotes in this post were compiled by RichardArmitageOnline.)
- The best voice Armitage does is that of Much, Robin’s faithful servant, turned free man. He has captured the righteous indignation and the speech patterns perfectly. Much, as in the TV series, is funny and yet lovable, adding a lot of lightness to the stories.
- Robin Hood is quite good too and very believable. You know, if Robin Hood in the TV series had sounded exactly like this, I might have fallen for him instead of Sir Guy!
- Alan A Dale‘s intonations are just right, from the moment we first meet him poaching in the forest — a cheeky but endearing rogue.
- The women’s voices have not been perfected, with Marian‘s voice not being particularly distinguishable as female. (In later Armitage audiobooks, it is easier to suspend your disbelief for the female characters.)
- I think if you weren’t familiar with the BBC Robin Hood series, the Sheriff of Nottingham‘s voice would work really well. But Keith Allen has a much higher voice than Richard Armitage and you can’t really hear him in these audiobooks. And maybe that’s OK. It makes it easier to listen to the stories and forget about these prominent characterizations from the series.
- Most surprising to me is how different Armitage sounds as Sir Guy of Gisborne in these audiobooks than in the TV series. As he said, again in the interview referenced above, in audiobooks “…you only have the voice to express all of that evil and intention, so it was a question of just turning up the volume on all the details that I use physically and trying to get that into the voice.” The only time that he really comes across clearly as the Guy we know is in the moments where he is being soft and gentle and trying to woo Marian.
After listening to the first one, I went on to the second episode’s audiobook, “Sheriff Got Your Tongue”. It has some really funny parts, particularly the scene where the outlaw Hanton is saying, “If someone was a bit, you know, quiet, you’d go, ‘What’s the matter? Sheriff got your tongue?'” A bonus is that you get to hear Armitage quietly sing Alice’s short lullaby for her son, “Have You Ever Kissed a Boy Called John?”. It’s sung as a woman and with an accent not his own, but it’s still a nice treat.
The Robin Hood audiobooks are available on Audible and on iTunes. Each episode cost me $9.95 on the latter — a bit pricey I think for an hour and a half, so I’ll probably hold off for a bit for the 3rd and 4th. The CD format also contains interviews and is available on Amazon for a bit more. Interestingly, I just found that there are fan-created transcripts of the TV episodes (not the audiobooks) at HOODWINKED.
Oh! I guess I’m up a bit late! It’s now after midnight, so Happy Canada Day, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation.