Union Theatre, London – until 15 July 2017
Tim Rice’s Blondel is given a new and updated life at the Union Theatre, delivering a light hearted and uplifting production that borders on the bizarre, but which still leaves audiences laughing. Set in the 1180’s, King Richard the Lionheart (played by Neil Moors) proclaims he will set off on a Crusade, and go to war with Saladin in the Middle East, leaving the county in the hands of the maniacal Prince John (James Thackeray). On this passionate adventure he drags along laundress, Fiona (Jessie May) , the fiancée of a struggling court Musician named ‘Blondel. After the king is kidnapped, Blondel (played by Connor Arnold) sets out on a mission to perform outside every single castle in t
he world, hoping that the king will hear his song, return his beloved and rescue the country from his despicable brother.
The writing of the show is clearly intelligent. The humour, though incredibly dry at points and entirely absurd, is elevating, delivering an entertaining 2 hour performance, though one occasionally wonders why the hell some actions on stage are actually happening!
The highlight of the evening is Michael Burgen’s performance as an Assassin hired by Prince John to eliminate King Richard, who despite loathing Blondel’s work, ends up traipsing around Europe after him, slowly going insane. Burgen is fantastic, he completely draws you in, delivering a standard to which the other performers need to match. His comic timing is superb and the energy with which he throws himself around the stage does genuinely have you clutching your sides.
Blondel is an entertaining production and the show itself is wholly reminiscent of Spamalot, (Editor’s note: Remember though that back in the day Blondel predated Spamalot, even if movie Monty Python And The Holy Grail was the daddy of the genre). The challenge to set yourself is see just how many references to Rice’s other works you can spot in the lyrics or musical motifs.