THE LEGEND OF KING ARTHUR
by Mike Kenny.
Theatre Royal St Leonard’s Place YO1 7HD To 31 August 2013.
Tue-Sat 2.30pm & 7pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 01904 623568.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 August.
Avoiding Heroes, boy becomes hero in satisfyingly complex and enjoyable adventure.
Fearsomely prolific playwright Mike Kenny miraculously finds a form and approach to each subject he takes – new or traditional – that explores its inner life.
He doesn’t waste a word, so with this York summer show being called The Legend of King Arthur, the idea of legend is important.
Any factual events behind the Arthurian story are lost in the myths of time; Kenny explores how storytelling invention can shape accidental events and restore a sense of order to life.
In doing this he relates present to past. The need for a hero, and desire for certainty in an unstable world, re-creates Arthur out of an unlikely modern youth, wandering in from a school-trip to York’s Jorvik Viking Centre.
Even Matthew Rixon’s imposing, sure-sounding Merlin becomes decreasingly certain about himself. And the most certain-seeming event in the saga, Arthur pulling the sword from the stone to identify himself as king, becomes a matter of doubt.
This is partly because it’s on sometimes unclear film, contrasting ancient forests with the modern foyer and street (Theatre Royal as modern Camelot?). It’s also part of a pattern of events being questioned; Excalibur itself has less power than the scabbard from which Arthur’s tricked into separating it.
There’s a sympathetic voice for those who feel betrayed by events, illuminating unusual sympathies among the traditional mix of moral certainty and betrayal which give the legend its unique atmosphere, while the once-and-future aspect underlies not only Merlin’s reverse-aging but the finding of a new Arthur.
All of which would be ingenious but make for a flat summer night without the strong story threading individual sharp-focused events within the complex overall action, which director Damian Cruden marshals along, humour and Catherine Chapman’s colourful set, accommodating modern and early medieval elements. Only occasional direct references to the audience sit uneasily, though they allow moments for mental relaxation.
Kenny might follow Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo in declaring ‘Happy the land that has no need of heroes’. So might his modern Arthur – the Jorvik Centre he’s fled is holding its own Heroes exhibition into the autumn. Joint tickets don’t seem on offer.
Lancelot/Leodegrance: Peter Basham.
Viviane: Charlotte Comer
King Arthur: Niall Costigan.
Sir Ector: Michael Lambourne.
Morgana: Michelle Long.
Merlin: Matthew Rixon.
Kai/Mordred: Josh Sneesby.
Gwenevere: Sarah Vezmar.
Young Arthur: Joseph Bower/Ross Hunter/Joe Sample.
Young Gwenevere: Anna Soden/Laura Soper/Amber Symons.
Young Lancelot: Scott Donsalves/Jason Ryall/Tom Western.
Young Morgana: Naomi Halliday/Emily Mahon/Lucy Simpson.
Infant Morgana: Julia Forsyth.
Director: Damien Cruden.
Young People’s Director: Natalie Quatermass.
Designer: Catherine Chapman.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Composer/Musical Director: Oliver Birch.
Audio-visual Designer: Mark Beasley.
Choreographer: Charlotte Comer.
Aerial Choreographer: Philippa Vafadari.
Aerial rigger: Joe Hull.
Assistant director: Nik Partridge.
Assistant musical director: Sarah Vezmar.
Fight director: Liam Evans-Ford.
Fight captain: Peter Basham.