Theatre Review: Morte d’Arthur, RSC/The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Sir Thomas Malory’s saga of the creation and destruction of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table is an ambitious project for any theatre director to tackle.
With its poetic language, rambling narrative and multitude of interconnecting stories Morte d’Arthur could in many ways be said to be too large to stage.
Which is the crux of Gregory Doran’s problem with this production at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon – it is simply too long and too complicated.
It is a pity Doran didn’t take inspiration from Dominic Cooke’s wonderful Arabian Nights which the RSC staged at Christmas. It was so successful because it pared the action down to a few stories rather than attempting the entire canon.
Mike Poulton’s adaptation has a fair stab at attempting a clear storyline which basically follows three strands – that of the rise of the king, the love affair between Launcelot and Guenever and the family saga of brothers Gareth and Gawain – until all clash in the destruction of Camelot.
But in dashing from one story to the next, Poulton and Doran lose much of the depth and complexity of these relationships and narratives.
Arthur, in particular, is never quite delineated. Played by Sam Troughton, are we to take him as a bumbling fool, a mighty warrior or a power-hungry monarch determined to keep all together despite the personal cost?
Launcelot, played by Jonjo O’Neill, is a much stronger characterisation, inspiring loyalty and affection from all – until he oversteps the mark by flaunting his relationship with Arthur’s queen.
There is much to like in this production as it is imaginatively staged and well acted but it would benefit from a little more careful editing.
Until August 28