Arthurian legend comes to life in this new show
Review by David Pollock published by The List on August 7th 2016
The country is united, it needs a strong King,' young Arthur is told, and his future as the fated monarch of England and the surrounding empire is sealed. It was the sixth century AD, but the theme of a divided country hasn't changed much, it seems. This version of Michael Morpurgo's young adult fantasy novel Arthur, High King of Britain is well-located within the National Museum of Scotland, blending a dramatic experience for young audiences with a handy primer on Arthurian legend.
The action is busy, unfolding on a stage which, for the most part, bears the entire ensemble of seven throughout – plus a puppet dog, who is the eyes of the wizard Merlin. His appearance owes much to a small scale version of the title character from that other most famous of Morpurgo stage adaptations, War Horse.
Produced by Story Pocket Theatre from Adam Fletcher-Forde's adaptation, the piece effectively translates Morpurgo's sense of epic clarity, distilled from disputed and only part-recorded historic myths.
In the present day, a young boy has an accident in a cave and finds an aged man who claims to be King Arthur, alive for eternity here. Played with an airy, distinguished wisdom by the white-haired David Gant (who also appears as the wizard Merlin), he claims to be the eternal King Arthur. He tells his tales for the boy – one involving the younger Arthur's (played with nobility by Thomas Gilbey, a War Horse alumnus) wife Guinevere, her affair with his most heroic knight Lancelot, and the scheming of Arthur's son Mordred and his enchantress mother Morgan Le Fay.
It's straightly-played but still a compelling adventure story filled with well-choreographed action and quality performances, and best suited to grip late primary school and early teenage viewers.