Merlin’s Apprentice at Taunton Brewhouse

pantoMerlinsAppTAUNTON’S Brewhouse Theatre has a professional Christmas show again this year, created by Kickline at the invitation of the new board of management.

The company decided to weave their musical around the legends of King Arthur, which are richly rooted in Somerset, and the result is Merlin’s Apprentice, with a script and lyrics by director Ian Trafford and music by Ian Crew.

With seven professional actors and a large company of local children, the gestation of the show included a research day into life in a Saxon village, and much musical rehearsal. And it is all credit to the young performers that they sang the songs as though they had tunes.

But Stephen Sondheim Mr Crew is not, and his arrangements even managed to make familiar Steeleye Span songs all but unrecognisable. There was lots of rhythm and percussion but precious little rhyme.

Will Trafford, who plays the young  Arthur, is a sensational dancer, and Emma Whittaker as the overlooked Morgana has a powerful singing voice.

Philip Voysey’s very Welsh wizard Merlin deploys volume and gravitas, but the script is woefully disappointing, veering embarrassingly from cod Olde Englishe to modern references. The four strolling players – the multi-talented Dorset born Holly Cassidy from Miracle’s Frankenstein, Kate Adams, who has been memorable in many local cabarets and shows, Leopold Boyle whose imposing figure and vocal abilities magnetised the stage and Anthony Burbridge, whose guitar seemed totally at odds with his singing – could have done so much better with good material.

I would love to say this was a welcome return to form for the Brew­house, which in 2007 hosted one of the best adaptations I have ever seen in Forkbeard Fantasy’s A Christmas Carol. But however the Saturday matinee audience praised their children and grandchildren in the chorus, and however good those children were, the script and lyrics would be laboured if this was the early stages of development of a community play, not a professional show with tickets priced accor­d­ingly.

Please let Will Trafford dance Billy Elliot while he still can, and find a tuneful show that entertains rather than a diatribe about gossip and feminism played on a very inventive set.


Posted in Reviews on .