Knights of the Rose
Reviewed – 5th July 2018
“The show did not give off a slick West End musical vibe, rather it radiated a pantomime like energy”
Knights of the Rose is a new musical created by Jennifer Marsden and directed by Racky Plews. The musical is a take on many of Shakespeare’s romances mashed together to 80s pop rock, set in a Camelot style kingdom, with the focus characters being members of the house of Rose. Royalty and knights alike.
I arrived with no expectations for this show. My first thoughts, was that it seemed laboured. The show did not give off a slick West End musical vibe, rather it radiated a pantomime like energy. With laughter arriving in unexpected places, I was unsure if it was supposed to be funny, or if the corniness of the music became too much for the audience. However the cheesiness of 80s pop rock, was matched well in some moments with the melodramatic Shakespearean style and narrative. The story mashed up all of Shakespeare’s great love stories, and threw in some Macbeth and Lord Byron. The literary references were a nice concept, however occasionally executed sloppily. An ailment that plagued a few different aspects of the musical.
I was surprised to find out after I’d seen the show, that it was created and directed by women. As the narrative was so male centric, and the most empowering moment for the three main female roles, was when they sang ‘Holding out for a Hero’ – a song about finding a man. However, the performances by the three main women, Katie Birtill, Rebekah Lowings and Bleu Woodward, who played Princess Hannah, Lady Isabel and Emily respectively were fantastic. All three had a brilliant presence on stage and very powerful voices. And despite my qualms about the song, it was one of my favourite moments of the evening.
Andy Moss, Chris Cowley and Oliver Savile were worthy counterparts as Prince Gawain, Sir Palamon and Sir Hugo respectively providing a dark yet charming aura to the piece. A special mention has to be made for Matt Thorpe, Sir Horatio and Ruben Van Keer, John, who both portrayed very endearing characters with beautiful voices. Thorpe was particularly powerful in his number ‘Always’
The performance by the cast, and musicians was fantastic. However it was let down by the fact that I didn’t know what it was trying to do. And I don’t think the show did either. It had a lot of ideas, and almost falls into the trap of being ‘too much’, especially in production value in this case. All said and done It was an enjoyable evening, even if it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.
Reviewed by Charlotte Hurford
Photography by Mark Dawson
Knights of the Rose
Arts Theatre until 26th August