A quaint and simple play based on the story of Merlin and King Arthur, it is ideal for a pre-Christmas family treat – Merlin’s tricks delighted those of all ages, whether it was the younger children watching in wonderment to the teenager trying to be smart and figure out how it all worked, or the adults no doubt transported back to the magic shows of our youth – involving doves, ribbons, magic rings, fake snow etc etc, the beauty was in the simplicity of it all. The penultimate scene did involve a sword-through-the-box trick, which always makes me nervous, no matter how many times I’ve seen a variation of it!
The dialogue was light-hearted and littered with quips by Merlin, and audience participation was called for, needing both volunteers and verbal encouragement - but thankfully no sign of the ‘He’s behind you!’ chant that tackifies so many Christmas-time plays (although many would say that is the essence of the festive season, if so apologies and Bah Humbug!)
The play was nicely choreographed although the limited floor-space meant the props hindered the freedom of movement somewhat, and the costumes were well put together (although one audience member did comment on the distraction of Merlin’s shoes!) And talking of props – do look out for the smallest round table you ever did see (as my son quipped, the knights must have been midgets in those days!)
The love story between Arthur and Guinevere was sweet and captivating, and more should have been made of it. Having fallen in love, Guinevere was quickly dispatched only to reappear as the mystery baddie Morgan le Fay who was Arthur’s half-sister – of course this is the peril of having a limited cast doubling up characters, but seemed a bit incestuous given that Arthur had been in love with the same girl in the previous scene – perhaps more of a disguise would have prevented me overanalysing this.
Arthur, played by Daryll James, was understated but good – my teenager was most impressed to read in the programme that he has been in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (I didn’t want to ruin it for him so will just let him go to school bragging that he has seen a star of the big-screen version currently showing at cinemas!), and his sidekick Gareth was played by Louisa-Marie Hunt – I admittedly wondered what the point of the character was, until Gareth spectacularly saved the day and redeemed his worth (I really should have paid more attention at school!). Guinevere (Erin Downton) had a beautiful singing voice and it would have been nice to have heard more than the one song – I thought the music and the acoustics in the theatre were very atmospheric and really lent some star quality to the production.
This play was disappointingly attended, which saddened me – as a nice family pre-festive outing or school end of term Christmas show it would be ideal. I do hope the rest of the week has a better turn out – we may have been a small crowd (as Merlin kept pointing out – ‘Crowd? Crowd!? Ha!) but we all – young and old alike – thoroughly enjoyed it.