Skip to main content

Camelot: The Panto!

Illustration by Sarah McIntyre

I thought my Third Arthurian Phase was at end with the completion of Gwenevere, which we’ll be releasing on YouTube at Christmas… but NO! By a strange coincidence, this year’s Moorland Merrymakers panto at Leusdon Memorial Hall was Camelot.  So various props and costumes from Gwenevere got another outing (a bit like how, in the early ‘80s, Adam and the Ants and Tenpole Tudor used to turn up in suits of armour from Excalibur). And I got to play Merlin…

It me.

Obviously it wouldn’t be on for me to review a show I was in, but I thought it might be worth blogging about the script, in case anyone out there is looking for a good panto to produce. Written by Ben Crocker, Camelot comes in at a neat 2 hours 20 minutes including interval, and although at first glance the jokes are mostly fairly lame, that doesn’t seem to matter in panto - when I wrote some for the Merrymakers a few years back I think I put in too many gags, thinking they had to work like comedy. In fact, a panto script just needs to provide a good structure, and the performers can provide most of the laughs by adding in local gags and references of their own. There are about thirteen big roles in Camelot, and plenty of smaller ones for the chorus as knights, witches, and villagers. It would suit a slightly larger stage than the tiny one we have at Leusdon, and the script calls for pyrotechnic effects which were beyond us, but we seemed to get by all right without. The second half features two good, slapstick chase scenes.

The connection to actual Arthurian legend is extremely tenuous - even Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was more canonical than this. But this is probably how most people encountered Arthur in the past - as a vaguely familiar character popping up to slay giants in local folk tales, largely unmoored from the high-flying stuff Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malory were writing about. This Camelot is really just a standard panto plot with ‘Prince Arthur’ as principle boy, Uther Pendragon as his absent-minded father (still alive here - no sword in the stone business in this version), Guinevere as heroine, and Merlin and Morgan Le Fay in the good fairy/wicked witch roles.(Morgan is trying to stop Arthur and Guinevere marrying because ‘then Camelot will be doomed’, so there’s no Lancelot business looming in this version either, though there is a cowardly jester called Laughalot.) 

The only bits of business that seem to be drawn from other Arthurian works are Arthur spying on Gwenevere as she makes her way to Camelot at the beginning, which I think comes from Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, and Morgan le Fay imprisoning Merlin in his laboratory which I suppose echoes Nimue/Vivien imprisoning him in the cave or tree in various versions of the legend. Merlin starts to age backwards in the second half, which feels like a nod to TH White. And, slightly bizarrely, there’s a long slapstick scene involving a perilous enchanted bed, a motif which is found in Arthurian romances by Chrëtien de Troyes and others - I hope they’d be pleased to find it still entertaining us in the 21st Century. 

Rob Steemson, Lloyd Mortimer, me, and Phil Smith in a scene from Camelot: the Panto

Camelot:the Panto and Ben Crocker’s other panto scripts are available from his website.


Popular posts from this blog

Lord of the Rings 7: Minas Tirith

'This is not a work which many adults will read through more than once,' claimed the historical novelist Alfred Duggan, reviewing The Lord of the Rings when it was published. But I've read it through LOADS of times and now I'm blogging my latest re-read, so what did he know? And so we come to Minas Tirith, Tower of Guard, citadel of Gondor, seven tiers of fancy white fortifications built against a buttress of Mount Mindolluin, with the Tower of Ecthelion rising a thousand feet above the plain. It seems to me the template on which a whole genre of knock-off fantasy cities has been based - I guess Robert E Howard and people wrote about such places before Tolkien, and perhaps there were cities of equal grandeur on Barsoom, but when concept art threads on Instagram throw up unlikely gold and marble castles built on mountaintops and over waterfalls they always look distinctly Minas Tirithy to me. I'm wondering now if London in Mortal Engines was subconsciously echoin

Thunder City

This September Scholastic will be publishing my new novel set in the world of Mortal Engines . Here’s the cover, created (like all the others in the series) by Ian McQue . The rule I set for myself when I was writing this one was that it shouldn’t feature any of the people or places from previous Mortal Engines books. So  Thunder Cit y takes place just over a century before the original book, when the town-eat-town world of Traction Cities is slightly less ruthless than it will become later, and none of the characters from the original quartet has even been born yet. (I suppose Mr Shrike must be bimbling about somewhere, but he’s still just yer basic implacable killing machine at this point so there’s not much point in paying him a visit). So hopefully this new take will be accessible to people who’ve never read Mortal Engines , and hopefully people who have read it will enjoy an adventure set in the same world. My pen and ink drawing of the Traction City of Thorbury,  after a painti

Railhead A-Z

In order to save my website it became necessary to destroy it. Before I pulled the plug I rescued the longest post on my old blog. Here it is, like the lone survivor of a shipwreck: my A-Z guide to the ideas behind my novel Railhead. At the time it was written, Railhead had just been published. I'll be putting up some posts about the sequels, Black Light Express and Station Zero , in the coming days. Railhead cover art by Ian McQue A  is for Alternative Forms of Transport ‘What I need,’ I thought, when I’d been struggling on and off for a few years with my space epic (working title, ‘Space Epic’) ‘is an alternative to spaceships…’ I’ve always enjoyed space stories. I first started reading science fiction back in 1977, when the original Star Wars film made me realise that outer space could be just as good a backdrop for fantasy as Tolkien-esque worlds of myth and legend. (Actually, I didn’t see Star Wars until 1978, but its bow-wave of publicity hit these shores the p