King Arthur Reviews

King Arthur

Full of tragic betrayal, raw emotion and slick performances, this modern adaptation of the classical 'King Arthur' is my kind of play. Written in iambic pentameter and accompanied by Archangelo Corelli's baroque score, Siege Perilous relate a traditional tale to today's world events, such as the Iraq war, in a postmodern production that is as captivating as ever. It's not all serious, though: the comic scene where the actors assume different dialects and act out a typical Shakespearean play within a play wearing hoodies and baseball caps adds colour to the piece. Jim Byars' heart-wrenching performance as Arthur, the impressive sword fighting scenes and the symbolic staging make this show work. A traditional play re-invented with a topical twist.

Laura Webb, Three Weeks

Spectacular modern take on a legend

For those of you expecting an orthodox representation of the King Arthur legend, beware. This experimental piece from local company Siege Perilous, wonderfully sculpted by Lucy Nordberg, may well use the familiar names and tales associated with Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, however, Nordberg's contemporary twist allows this engrossing play to examine political topics of the present day.

Here, steel armour is exchanged for swish cocktail suits, battle is fought with words instead of swords (though there is nifty fencing on display) and King Arthur struggles to ensure his ideals last on a population who believe in fate and tradition. The acting is strong as an ox, and the ten-minute middle section – which punctuates the main narrative – is an inspired piece of writing. To explain it would be to spoil the surprise. This small sidestep does nothing to hamper the flow of what is a progressive and interesting take on a classic tale. Enjoy.

Barry Gordon, Edinburgh Evening News

King Arthur

The Edinburgh based company Siege Perilous, well known for high quality adaptations of classical texts as well as new writing, present Lucy Nordberg's interpretation of King Arthur. The play is written in blank verse while using contemporary language, an intriguing combination. King Arthur is an enlightened leader who decides to impose democracy on his people. Yet they will have to learn to rule themselves, and who will train them? Furthermore, a successor must be found as his marriage to Guinevere has remained childless. The Christian Arthur hopes to achieve peace with Morgan Le Fay who rules a Pagan border state by accepting his illegitimate son Mordred as heir to the throne. Mordred is trained for the role of a traditional king but in a democracy he would only be a figurehead. The confused teenager falls under the influence of power hungry factions in court who want the crown for themselves.

In this fine production the actors are present on stage all the time. The stage design is minimalist with a circular chequered floor and only few props. There are outstanding performances throughout, especially Jim Byars as Arthur, Paul Crommie as his antagonist Kay, Anne Kane Howie as Morgan Le Fay, and Allan Scott-Douglas as the scheming Breunor.

Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

Political reworking of the traditional legend

Don't expect any magic swords or epic heroics in this ambitious production by Scottish company Siege Perilous. Here an innovative script by Lucy Nordberg strips the Arthurian tale of its supernatural trappings and instead uses the power play between characters to give insight into modern day political debate.

Arthur, who has ruled over a people whose culture is heavily based in tradition and ritual, announces his intention to give every person 'a voice' and instigate a democracy to be watched over by his young and naïve son Mordred. These idealistic plans are not warmly received by all at Arthur's court as fear and greed propel the action and Mordred becomes a pawn for the ambition of others.

The Renaissance style of this production marries iambic pentameter form with contemporary language and issues in an engaging fusion of tradition and modernity. Competent performances carry the challenging material, but occasionally rapid delivery can make the plot difficult to follow. If you can keep up, however, the debates raised by this bold piece of theatre will linger with you long after the show has ended.

Amy Russell, The List

King Arthur

Low Down

The tale of King Arthur retold in an engaging fusion of tradition and modernity proves that there is nothing really new in politics, despite what our ever-increasing number of democratic representatives may wish to argue.


The leader faces a dilemma. How does he usher in a new age of reason, peace, prosperity and autonomy for his people whilst ensuring that his enemies don't undo all his good work following his period in power? Sounds familiar, doesn't it.

The traditional tale of King Arthur has been cleverly taken by Lucy Nordberg and related to more recent political machinations. There are clear parallels with the dichotomy King Arthur faces and that faced by Tony Blair as he led Britain into war with Iraq – the line from the play "from false belief a desperate weakness grows" just about sums it up for me. It doesn't end there either. The King entreats his knights to "take advice from our subjects rather than waste time inside this castle", an allegory aimed foursquare at our own discredited legislatures no doubt. And all the while we have Breunor scheming and manipulating in the background, spinning like a top, duplicity personified. Anyone spring to mind on the current political scene that matches this description?

King Arthur determines that he will bestow power to his people whilst earmarking his troubled bastard son, Mordred, as his successor. Cue much muttering in the cabinet ranks and commencement of plotting and counter plotting by his enemies against the proposed reforms and consequent threat to their power base. Move over Gordon, your knights are revolting.

It's not all serious stuff though as there's a delightfully zany interlude as the cast don hoodies and baseball caps to act a play within a play, part of the towns peoples' tradition it turns out. But where is the Arthurian equivalent of David Cameron when one of the hoodies needs hugging?

Back to the serious bit. The play blends classic iambic pentameter with more conventional dialogue with the pleasing effect that this creates being enhanced by Corelli's baroque score. Combative fencing and a general sense of tension adds to the atmosphere of this bold piece of theatre. There's a strong performance from the experienced Jim Byars as King Arthur, supported well by Anne Kane Howie as Morgan Le Fey and Steven McMahon as Mordred. The rest of the cast contribute nicely to the fast moving if sometimes rather over-complicated plot, although lines were too frequently swallowed in the actors' haste to convey them to the audience, in one case repeatedly and annoyingly so. But the pick of the bunch is Allan Scott-Douglas as the Machiavellian Breunor - a truly commanding performance and great stage presence.

The play is at full gallop as it reaches its climax, leaving the audience somewhat gasping for breath as they try to keep up. But with a bit of mental dexterity you can manage it and the acting is well worth the effort in so doing.

Tim Wilcock, Fringe Review