REVIEW: BLONDEL (Union Theatre) ★★★★

Blondel Union Theatre

The Union Theatre goes back to medieval Britain this summer, in what Tim Rice describes as one of the most enjoyable project’s of his vast and varied career, ‘Blondel’. Telling the story of a lowly court singer’s search to write the perfect anthem whilst ‘King Richard’ (played brilliantly by Neil Moors), under whom he is employed, ventures upon yet another crusade to the middle east taking with him the hapless musician’s strong minded maiden, ’Fiona’ (Jessie May) and leaving him to the keep of the King’s wicked, emulous brother ‘Prince John’ (James Thackeray). What ensues for our hero is a comic goose chase through Europe to find the King, save his bride-to-be and restore peace to England.

The show is exceedingly British, feeling somewhat like a cross pollination of ‘Blackadder’ and a ‘Carry-On’ film. With its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, there is very little to be taken seriously in this production. Ryan Dawson Laught’s set design is deliciously inventive and makes clever use of the space available. This teamed with Sasha Regan’s direction creates a piece that feels both exaggerated beyond the realms of reality and yet truthful at it’s very core.

Tim Rice and Stephen Oliver’s music is memorable and witty with an emphasis on the story at its base. The real heart of this musical however is the supporting cast. A group of hilarious, acapella monks narrate whilst the dirty laundry ladies of the court scrub away your worries. This eight strong ensemble provide more than enough bang for your buck and give the piece a much needed lift.

Although most character choices were clear, I have to say that Michael Burgen’s ‘Assasin’ lacked any real direction, and what should have stolen the show felt more like a frustrating and prolonged inside joke that the audience were not a part of.

In dark times such as these, a rumpus evening of utter frivolity and fun such as ‘Blondel’ is sure to slap a smile on your face. If the musical ‘Spamalot’ was a living person, ‘Blondel’ would be his grubby little brother with bruised knees and dirt on his face.

Reviewed by Jimmy Richards
Photo: Scott Rylander

Blondel plays at the Union Theatre until 15 July 2017