Monday, November 24, 2014


at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Simon Armitage's new verse translation of this grisly tale has been praised for its immediacy and its fidelity to the spirit of the original.
Now here it is on stage, in the candlelit Jacobean playhouse, read by Armitage himself. The atmosphere, helped no little by the flickering light and the bray harp of Jon Banks, takes us right back to those medieval halls and their bards, spinning yarns after supper.
The poet is joined on stage by Tom Stuart, who reads the Knight's dialogue, and Polly Frame, who takes the other characters, including the Green Giant, Bertilak and his Lady. Except for the Porter, whose small role is taken by a woman in the front row …
It's an audience-friendly performance, with more laughs than one might expect; Armitage's mischievous modernisms, and wryly ironic emphases, adding enjoyably to the excitement of the ancient story.
And a taste of the original Wirral words at the beginning and the end, just to show how far we have come, and how close the new verse is to the old …

þis kyng lay at camylot vpon kryst masse
with mony luflych lorde ledez of þe best
rekenly of þe rounde table alle þo rich breþer
with rych reuel ory3t and rechles merþes

It was Christmas at Camelot – King Arthur’s court,
where the great and the good of the land had gathered,
all the righteous lords of the ranks of the Round Table
quite properly carousing and revelling in pleasure.

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