ARTHUR: THE STORY OF A KING
by Andy Cannon, Iain Johnstone and David Trouton.
Tour to 15 October 2011.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 September at Traverse Theatre (Traverse 1) Edinburgh.
Welcome revival of fine cereal drama.
Founding voice of Wee Stories Andy Cannon is apparently passing the mantle to colleague Iain Johnstone. In, it’s to be hoped, a less patronising fashion than he displays in this revival of the company’s outstanding piece for 8+.
There’s an echo of the Morecambe and Wise personae between these two; Cannon suave and controlled, Johnstone, puzzled, facial muscles seeming to react one by one to each new instruction or information nugget. And, like the old comic TV twosome, the status balance can shift. Then, just as Eric and Ernie could turn on a hapless guest star, so Cannon and Johnstone have a go at keyboards-man David Trouton.
Johnstone’s particularly good at silent put-downs. But this show has ideas of its own. One is initiating the story of King Arthur through what they claim is 16 packets of cornflakes (I counted 17).
Not only does the cardboard turn out to have considerable plasticity as it’s shaped individually into a crown or collectively forms Camelot; the idea of exploring history through a thread starting with the back of a cereal pack has its own point in demonstrating where learning can begin.
Ways of learning ricochet through this ever-entertaining play. In a delightful contradiction (delightful, because life’s like that) it’s the studious Johnstone, learning from a book, who comes across myth and fantasy, while Cannon seems to have looked at hard historical fact. Given that this is – and it’s said repeatedly – ‘The Dark Ages’, the sense of questing through questioning persists, building the story of Arthur from assembled evidence – the jigsaw-puzzle method of enquiry.
Yet, while it reflects educational processes, this is also a comic theatre performance. Johnstone takes on the role of less quick learner, and there are moments of peer pressure, and hints of conveyor-belt bullying, passed down the status-queue. There is also, in this revival, video and the mystic incarnated in visions of Lorna Gold behind the projection-screen.
Wee Stories have made many fine pieces for young people; Arthur, though, has the complexity and clarity of a classic and, like its subject, should be a once and future show.
Cast: Andy Cannon, Iain Johnstone, David Trouton, Lorna Gold.
Directors: Iain Johnstone, Andy Cannon.
Designer: Becky Minto.
Lighting: Gerron Stewart.
Video: Tim Reid.