I’m ever so slightly too young to vividly remember the immortal ITV kids’ show ‘Knightmare’. Just as well really, or else I think I’d still be yapping on about the nostalgic, cultish, shambolic, bombastic, and, at times, awesomely manic Knightmare Live interactive theatre show that I saw at last week’s Udderbelly Festival.
Mercifully, what I do remember was enough to make this ad-libbed fantasy come to life. Special guests Stu Heritage and Robyn Wilder joined forces to guide our blind participant volunteer Liam (“Liam: that’s a warrior’s name”) through Levels 1-3 of Lord Fear’s dungeon. Blind? He wore the helmet of justice, of course (now that I do remember – weird ram horns and all), as he navigated through a twisted maze of riddles, enchantments and slow-swinging rubber scythes.
OK, so it wasn’t exactly the fantastical (k)nightmare I remember as a kid. The sets were pretty basic – bar the hilarious talking wall and a quite-good-actually puppet dragon – but that just made it even more marvellously self-conscious. Pepper that with a few adult jokes (“I’ve shagged Michaela Strachan”), swear words (Dragon: “Liam – that’s a shit name”), nods to Game of Thrones and the East London vintage scene, and you’ve got yourself a late night nerdy delight.
The performance wasn’t perfect. Though strong, the actors often found themselves buying time while the (rubbish) sets were being changed. And it did seem to split the crowd: mainly by those who had avidly watched Knightmare as kids (the thirtysomethings), and those who didn’t know any of the back story and just found the whole thing to be a bit weird.
Expect more of a stand-up trip down memory lane than a perfectly positioned homage to a disturbing kids’ show, and you won’t be disappointed. And make sure you leave the kids at home – the emblematic death skull with its skin peeling off is still as horrifying as ever.