Lerner & Lowe's musical adaptation of the classic Arthurian legend is surely perfect fare for Regent's Park, its leafy setting lending an generous dose of magic to this bittersweet tale of chivalry in the age of Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Paul Farnsworth's simple design rightly puts the Round Table at the heart of the stage, little else being required.
The subject may make it at first appear mythical escapism but actually Camelot's themes have perennial appeal. Jettisoning violence in favour of rational debate Arthur's avowed intention is to create a land where power is levied responsibly: 'might for right' rather than the existing status quo where 'might is right', simply by virtue of superior social position.
With his beloved Guenevere at his side and ably assisted by his friend, the redoubtable knight Lancelot du Lac, Arthur's noble idea is skewered by simple human frailty stewed by the evil machinations of the scheming Mordred. The complex love that binds all three of the main characters is what leads the latter to sardonically quip, 'the table's round, the relationships triangular.'
With a lyrical score that moves from the safe shores of sunny optimism to painful heartbreak, the music (performed by a live band) reflects these changing moods beautifully, the emotional journey of each character mirrored by the melodies. Daniel Flynn is well cast as Arthur who's gained his regal position through lifting the sword in the stone and has much to learn about kingship- and human ambivalence. Flynn looks the part and though he begins tentatively, really grows into the role, his final plea to a young Mallory carrying much emotional charge: 'Don't let it be forgot/ That once there was a spot/ For one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.'
Lauren Ward is less persuasive as Guenevere, her queen not just playful but over-flippant, her growing knowledge of love's complexity not entirely convincing. Matt Rawle's Lancelot gives much amusement as the untainted hero whose musical paean to self-perfection 'C'est Moi' swiftly unravels in the face of unexpected love, but again he's better at humour than pathos. Happily flawless though is Russ Abbot's rambunctious, loveable Pellinore, whose paternal relationship with the bewildered king provides one of the show's highlights. Somewhat lacking in depth overall, Ian Talbot's production nonetheless contains much to enjoy.
Production photos by (c) Alastair Muir
What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Boring, tuneless." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "It's not only an amiably pleasing show but it also reminds us how politicians appropriate popular culture for their own ends." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "You often wish the show had more bite ....Still, there are some nice tunes and some enjoyable acting." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Charming." DOMINIC CAVENDISH for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "An evening of diminishing returns." ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Despite its occasional patchiness in terms of music, it's hard to think of Camelot without affection."