Wednesday, February 24, 2021

XCALIBUR (EMK Musical Company/Stream Theatre)***


By Jack


Available until: Livestreams every night at 7.30 until Sunday 28 February. Also matinees at 2.30 on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. (Well they’re livestreams in that they have to be watched at a specific time but it’s a recorded show.)

There’s a story in my family about King Arthur. One day when my aunt was about my age (13) her class was given a monarch quiz. My aunt didn’t know much so every time she didn’t know an answer, she put King Arthur. Apparently everyone cracked up so much when she got home and told them, they had trouble explaining King Arthur wasn’t real.

But is he real? I asked Alan (another blogger) as he’s a bit older than me and tends to pay a lot more attention in history. He said… maybe. It seems likely that lots of the stories about Arthur were made up but it’s possible there was a real King Arthur too. But it’s also possible there wasn’t one.

There’s a document from the 9th century called Historia Brittonum which had details about Arthur that suggests he was a real person who fought in battles, even if all that sword and Merlin stuff is crap. But recently, people have been having a proper look at Historia Brittonum and have decided it’s maybe not the most reliable document. There’s another one called Annales Cambriae (which I pronounce Anals Cum-Bra but apparently that’s wrong… I’m a 13 year old boy in lockdown, I’ve got to keep myself entertained somehow) but it looks like that one used Historia Brittonum as its source so the Anal one probably just copied what the Pisstoria Bottom said.

So nobody knows if King Arthur is real or not but we can be sure my aunt didn’t get her best ever score on that history test. (She probably knows a bit more now. She’s got A level history.)

But real or not there have been loads of works of fiction inspired by King Arthur. Xcalibur is the latest and it isn’t bad. They had to put all the slushy bits in so you’ve got Arthur and Guinevere getting it on, then Lancelot decides she wants Guinevere, then Arthur catches them at it so there’s all this big drama. But there’s also lots of exciting stuff like sword fights and it’s not just the men either, Guinevere is half decent with a sword and there’s another girl called Morgan who likes killing people so they weren’t too annoying. The Saxons, led by a guy called Wolf, are also causing trouble. Never mind, the Normans will be along eventually, they’ll soon sort that out.

It’s hard to say if Ivan Menchel’s book or Robin Lerner’s lyrics are any good because it’s all in Korean but Frank Wildman’s music isn’t bad. There’s nothing that really stands out as a great song and a lot of the songs sound very similar, all the battle songs are really dramatic and the love songs are really slushy but it’s not as annoying as most musicals because the music does kind of enhance the action so it was a bit like background music really except that the actors joined in.

I always think of Arthur as a bit of an old guy but this Arthur was quite young and it is more realistic if a girl like Guinevere is going to go for someone young. If he’s old then immediately you think she’s after his money or the title. There were 3 guys sharing the role of Arthur and although most of the reviews were of some K-pop singer I think the one I saw was Kai, a popera singer who also does musical theatre. He does a good job. He’s a likeable sort of guy who maybe gets a bit less likeable when he has to make tough decisions but that’s what you get when you’re in charge. Much better he does that than runs round trying to be everyone’s friend.

Guinevere (Sophie Kim) is good, she seems fairly sensible except when she gets distracted by Lancelot. Morgan (Shin Young-sook) has a powerful voice and she’s a much more interesting character, choosing between good and evil is a bit more interesting than choosing between two blokes. Merlin (Kim Jun-hyun) is a bit annoying but no more annoying than Merlin usually is. Lancelot is a bit of a geek which I don’t think is how he’s usually played but Park Kang-hyun is good at geekiness and he’s got a great voice. The Knights are okay but they’re basically all the same, they don’t really stand out as individuals but you usually know who’s who because the character names keep appearing on the screen.

But the thing I really liked about this was the set. The problem I have with theatre is that it’s not real. Yes I get about being in the room with the actors (not that anyone is now) and watching something in real time, knowing they might muck up and they’ll just have to get on with it. But a theatre is a theatre. Les Miserables has sewers in it, Phantom has an underground dungeon thing, Aladdin has a massive cave. But if you go to the theatre, it’s usually really obviously not a sewer, a dungeon or a cave. It’s a theatre.

But with Xcalibur they really put the effort into making it look real. When they had walls they looked like proper walls. They even had trees which looked like proper trees. The lighting really helped too, it made the floor look like it might actually be outside. So I found it loads more realistic than most plays. Obviously the cameras helped too by not showing the arch thing and it was great how there were shots from all angles, it looked like they had cameras at the sides of the stage and that was good. Stephen Rayne who’s the director made the production really atmospheric too which helps.


So if you want to watch a musical that isn’t complete rubbish check out Xcalibur.

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