Children’s show review: Michael Morpurgo’s King Arthur

Thomas Gilbey (The Boy, Young Arthur) and David Gant as King Arthur/Storyteller
Thomas Gilbey (The Boy, Young Arthur) and David Gant as King Arthur/Storyteller
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From the Lady in the Lake to the Sword in the Stone, there is no shortage of fantastical stories attached to the Arthurian legend.

Star rating: ****
Venue: Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64)

So when Michael Morpurgo sat down to write his 2008 novel for young people Arthur, High King of Britain, his research was a melting pot of fact, fiction and guesswork.

But although we’ll never really know exactly what happened to Arthur and the people surrounding him, Morpurgo’s version of events comes across with a crystal clarity in this energetic new production from Story Pocket Theatre.

Stranded on a rock as the tide washes in, a young boy worries he’ll never make it home again. The next thing he knows, he’s been rescued by the centuries old King Arthur who, it transpires, will stay alive for as long as his stories are being told.

And then we’re off to Camelot, as the white-bearded King (played with gravitas by actor David Gant, who also doubles as Merlin) takes the young boy back in time to re-enact his fascinating tale.

There are too many characters, and too much information, for children under eight to follow – but for older children, teenagers and indeed adults, it’s an exciting and informative hour. Swords clash as knights fight to retain their status and search for the Holy Grail; Arthur and his best pal Lancelot struggle to maintain their friendship in the midst of their love triangle with Guinevere; and the King’s power is threatened by his mean-spirited son, Mordred.

A large, grey circular stone inscribed with all the names of the Knights of the Round Table dominates the stage, cleverly broken into separate parts to depict other places and things when required. And while the tales themselves may not be wholly believable, the actors performing them most certainly are.

Until 29 August. Tomorrow 2:45pm.

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