Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Past winners of the FringeReview Outstanding Theatre Award (For Anton’s Uncles), Theatre Movement Bazaar return to the Fringe with their latest produxtion, Grail Project. “Multi award-winning creators of Anton’s Uncles, Track 3, Big Shot and Hot Cat, Theatre Movement Bazaar assembles its ultra-modern troubadours for the company’s latest adventure, the Grail Project, unraveling the Arthur Legend and Grail Myth. Wandering knights, hopeful kings, sensual maidens and mystical magicians are given a contemporary voice in this woven tapestry of original text, song, dance, humour and unique physicality.”
It was back in 2011 that FringeReview presented Theatre Movement Bazaar with an Outstanding Theatre Award for Anton’s Uncles. Since then the company has been regularly retuning to the Fringe with its signature mix of top quality physical theatre-based storytelling, based on discovering and exploring novel ways to work with and re-present classic texts such as those by Chekhov and Tennessee Williams. At the root is physical theatre, woven into finely tuned writing.
This year is no exception. The Legend of King Arthur and the Grail Myth have fallen into the creatively dangerous hands of this acclaimed company and we are presented with their renowned physical storytelling style blended with music, comedy and dance whilst remaining respectful of the core themes and intentions of those traditional and, for some, sacred myths and tales. Welcome to the story of King Arthur and the Grail Myth like you’ve never seen them before.
There are different versions of the Grail Story available, such as those by Chretien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach, amongst others. Those stories do not always agree on the details. However, the common ground often involves a grail that changes. In the begining the grail (a cup or a plate) offers to grant what one truly needs, or is a plate that delivers endless nourishment. Then there is the quest by Parzival (Percy-val in the TMB version). At the beginning, Parzival is a protected from the true dangers of the world. The quest is a difficult one, involving pain and suffering, which tranforms his soul and the grail he finds has now become one that offers healing and resolution. In this production, the court of King Arthur is a place of wretched contentment.
Grail Project mirrors and reproduces that deeper project of change that it told in those traditional versions. It perks up the story and the creative team of Tina Kronis, Richard Alger, Wes Myers, Ellen McCartney, Aaron Francis throw all kinds of ingredients into the artistic caludron, backed up by a hugely multi-talented cast who impress with their individual performances as well as being (with ease) a multi-legged beast called movement and song. They collectively tell a story, a quest for the grail, full of comedy, dance, knockabout theatre, tender set pieces, cabaret narration, word play, eye-contact clowning, doubletakes aplenty , a bit of poetry, music and song. It’s done with easy, cheek, cleverly contrasting costume, and plenty of direct performance.
We follow the narrative with interest, our hero is a likeable rogue, the journey bordering in places on Python (in homage to, rather then too derived from), and those deeper themes are deftly handled. We quest to learn, to find a deeper place, and those quests are challenging, needing us to overcome obstacles both inside and outside of our selves. Percy finds resolution and the whole production feels satisfying. It was only near the very end that some polemic about our world today (delivered over a microphone) felt clunky. I felt told, and the energy dropped a bit. If the intention was to parody that polemic, that wasn’t clear enough. It felt a little anti-climactic.
That said, we have here an unmissable example of excellent writing and direction, design and choreography that merrily takes liberties with genres and is happy to mix them up into a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. That, by the way, is alchemy. Here they have turned base metal into artisic gold. A livey production that sparkles with life and brings you are story, blended traditional and modern, happy to bamboozle you and then to drag you back into the narrative that was always there, demanding your attention.
You’ll be so very glad you came – alot. (wink wink).