King Arthur (Evening performances)

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Merton Arts Space Thursday 8th - Saturday 10th November 2018 at 8pm

flyer with black silhouetted military figures and equipment and stylised red poppies

In collaboration with a 10-strong cast of professional opera singers and actors and 12-piece chamber orchestra, Colliers Wood Chorus presents King Arthur - The British Worthy.

This epic, powerful drama, with music by Henry Purcell and text by John Dryden (1691), has been given a First World War setting, and will be performed on the three evenings leading up to, and the afternoon of, the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice. It is Community-led and funded by Colliers Wood Chorus and is a rare opportunity to see this English opera fully staged.

The production also represents the culmination of our 10th anniversary celebrations and a major fund-raising effort by the choir, which is particularly grateful for the support of local businesses The Charles Holden, Coffee in the Wood, Kartee M Salon and the Royal Standard, Colliers Wood.


The Story

Britain has been invaded by the Saxons. As a military leader, Arthur must defeat his adversary Oswald; as a man and a lover, he must rescue his beloved Emmeline from Saxon abduction and enchantment. Alongside King Arthur’s military and personal struggles, Merlin’s powers of enchantment are pitted against the illusionist skills of the dastardly Saxon, Radwulf.

First World War setting

By setting Dryden’s story of conflict and love in the First World War, we will be exploring what motivates people to be soldiers, nurses, or conscientious objectors, and how they survived gas attacks, shell shock, separation and bereavement.

We were careful not to shoe-horn our WW1 setting into the original text, but Dryden himself pointed us to this concept with references to noxious mists (mustard gas attack?) and the ground shaking during an intense battle. (Artillery fire? The large cannons named Woden and Thor.) There are also slightly more challenging magical moments: a frost scene where love awakens the frozen soldiers and a pastoral scene where the soldiers are reminded of home as the postman delivers parcels and letters. We're casting Merlin as a female field surgeon, and the wizard Radwulf as an intelligence officer, with the nymphs and fairies being nurses and civilians. The chorus will have various levels of involvement, with some static, but engaged, on stage, others more actively moving into the action and the rest performing small vignettes within the drama as identifiable characters (a mother receiving a telegram, a mocked conscientious objector, a wounded soldier etc).

Principal Cast

five mugshots of the actors

Angela Harvey: Merlin / Matilda
Charles White: Arthur
Christie Amery: Emmeline
Edmund Fargher: Conon / Oswald
Joseph Emms: Albanact / Radwulf

five mugshots of the singers

Alistair Sutherland: baritone (Grimbald)
Anna Prowse: mezzo-soprano (Celtic/Saxon soldier)
Lucy van Gasse: soprano (Philadel)
Naomi Kilby: soprano (Celtic nurse / innkeeper)
Philip Clieve: tenor (Celtic/Saxon soldier)

Creative Team

Text by John Dryden; music by Henry Purcell (who do not have websites)
Writer/adapter: David Kerby-Kendall
Conductor: Christopher Killerby
Director: Julie Osman
Associate Director: Alex Pearson
Designer: Sally Hardcastle
Lighting Designer: Steve Lowe