February 15, 2010

Knights in Shining Armor

February 15, 2010

While my focus has shifted to the scholarly of late, I also (on occasion) do things unrelated to books or dead poets. This past weekend, I was treated to dinner at Medieval Times and my sensibilities as an actor, performer and scholar of things related to Knights and Kings were suitably offended.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the pretty horses, the pretty knights on the pretty horses, the pretty weapons that the knights wielded while riding the pretty horses…. What I did not enjoy was the caliber of performer able to secure a job at this establishment.

Some of the knights were amazing. Some of these fights were truly slamming, the pace was good and I actually bought that the combatants had the intention of hurting each other. However some fights were just painful to watch. They were all well choreographed, but said less-than-stellar fights had cues you could drive a truck through. As a trained stage combatant and member of the SAFD, I understand the need for safe fighting. Hell, I wouldn’t want someone swinging a Morningstar at my head unless I was absolutely certain he knew what he was doing. It was obvious, to me at least, that these performers (I hesitate to say ‘actors’) simply did not have the fight training to be fighting the way they were.

In addition to less-than-stellar fights, the performance itself was spotty at best. I definitely did not go expecting highly trained proficient actors en par with Ian McKellon, but I did expect to at least understand what the people were saying. Due to some serious annunciation problems, I only really got about two words which came out of the Princess’ mouth. Granted, she was wearing a headset mic and speaking on one of those is a skill in itself, but when I think about all the talented actors in the New York area who could be paid to play her part, I wonder at the casting decisions this organization makes. The guy who played the Prince was pretty to look at and could certainly ride a horse, but that was about it. I think the gamer term for this guy is “meat shield”. It’s no small wonder he was captured and held hostage for so long, his idea of emotion pretty much amounted to “No. Stop. Please. Don’t.” The show went more smoothly and was more entertaining when he was where he belonged: offstage.

That being said, I did have fun. Yes, you have to eat with your hands. Yes, the evil knight kicks hardcore booty. Yes, our serving wench was seriously awesome. And yes, they serve daiquiris the size of your head. I am not joking. Perhaps the best part of the experience was being encouraged to cheer for the knight whose section you were randomly assigned to sit in. At first, the audience was shy about this but as the night progressed the cheering became louder and louder. I believe that I have already expressed my heartfelt love for interactive theatre, and this certainly fell into that category. It was utterly exhilarating to be sitting amongst a group of people who fed off each others’ energies and poured it out to the performers. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of those performers. Our knight certainly seemed to enjoy the support. A true showman, he worked the crowd every chance he got and we loved him for it. I mean really, how can you not love a guy in tights who encourages you to do the wave as he rides by on his horse?

Overall I would recommend the experience if you can get a good deal on the tickets. Do not pay sixty bucks to go see this, but do get a group of friends together and pay thirty bucks to go. It is well worth the (discounted) cost.

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