Short version: Knightmare Live is great fun. Go see it.
WELCOME, watchers of illusion, to this review.
Suffice to say that Knightmare Live is a slightly different prospect to the esteemed televisual feast that CITV broadcast from 1987 to 1994, but nonetheless a massively entertaining one. Almost as if Mystery Science Theatre 3000 decided that commenting on films wasn’t enough, and that they had to go and make Troll 4.
What we have is a stage version of the TV show, which comes with its own limitations. However, despite this it’s a faithful replication of the gameplay, with one player donning the Helmet of Justice and a knapsack before entering the dungeons. Two comedians (in this case, Matthew Highton and Jessica Fostekew) act as his guides. It is at this point that Den of Geek has realised that Treguard borrowed his pen to give to Matthew Highton and didn’t give it back. (Ooh) Nasty.
The game works very well in a live context, with the packed-out audience revelling in every catchphrase archly dropped, every near-escape from a goblin, or every time Treguard pointed out an original prop from the show. On entrance, about sixty percent of people who walked past the Helm of Justice gave it a stroke, and thirty percent of them emitted a joyous gurgle.
The show has added extra dates, which bodes well, as a lively audience really seems to make it a better collective experience. As with most live comedy, the more the merrier.
This isn’t merely an exercise in nostalgia as a result. Conviviality and delight lurk throughout like comforting shrugs. These performers (Paul Flannery, Tom Bell and Amee Smith take the main roles) are mainly comedians and fans, so this isn’t an entirely serious version of the show. As anyone who watched Barry Thorne’s journeys through the dungeons on the CITV Old Skool weekend, Knightmare moves from inducing terror to inducing hilarity as you get older. At its best, it manages both. Certainly the live show achieves this, with desperate cries of ‘Sidestep left’ abounding. Mainly though, there are knowing ad libs, meta-jokes and some glorious improv involving malfunctioning props. There is no fourth wall, the audience are invited to contribute. Afterwards, you can talk to the sweaty yet approachable cast, and move beyond the mere stroking of the Helmet of Justice:
Notorious pen-thief Treguard has his photo taken with Den of Geek.
It smells legendary.
Making Knightmare for the stage looks, frankly, like a bit of a pain in the arse. There’s a list of credits on the Knightmare Live website which should be read. Without the staging (inevitably more complex than most Fringe shows, but it looks like its been effectively designed) it would feel somewhat hollow. The Kickstarter money is put to good use.
Kudos to Emma Williamson and Rob Praine for the costumes and stage design, and for those who found a way to replicate the Hall of Blades in what is normally a debating chamber in a Students Union. It is a miracle no-one was more seriously injured. Some people would say it was a shame.
If you’ve been looking forward to this since the news of its impending arrival first broke, and were worried that the reality of Knightmare Live wasn’t going to be as good as the concept, it’s fine. Have a sit down and a small cry. It’s exactly as good as you think it’s going to be.
If there are any tickets left for this, seek them out. Knightmare Live is a joyous farrago of love, in-jokes and wanton geekery. Celebrate the hell out of it, for soon we shall all be dead.