Blondel at the Union Theatre
Blondel is a very English kind of musical: buxom washerwomen, monks and even Robin Hood all make an appearance. Add to that a big dollop of camp and a generous helping of silliness and it’s a little like a pantomime Blackadder.
Set in 1189, Tim Rice’s first collaboration without Andrew Lloyd Webber tells the tale of a minstrel troubadour seeking fame and fortune by singing the praises of the monarchy. And when Richard I heads off on a Middle East Crusade (taking Blondel’s sweetheart with him) and runs into a spot of bother, the wannabe medieval rock star seizes his chance to try and save his King, his intended and his country. The action all speeds along at pace – carried by a wonderful five-piece band at the edge of the stage – and is amusing enough. But the script is a mixed bag and the jokes in between songs occasionally fall flat (the terrible egg and cress sandwich gag features not once but twice).
Rice saves his best wit for the rhymes that accompany Stephen Oliver’s energetic score. A delightfully comical chorus of monks introduce and narrate the goings on in perfect unison. Neil Moors as Richard the Lionheart is also memorable, belting out his songs with a cocky bravado, and his scheming, power-hungry brother, Prince John, is brilliantly played by James Thackeray. His gleeful rendition of No Rhyme for Richard is one of the evening’s stand-out numbers. Unfortunately, Connor Arnold as the supposed heart of the show lacks a strong voice or any real stage presence; he’s mismatched against the more impressive Jessie May as his love interest.
The action on stage is effectively framed by a map of Europe, a visual reminder of England’s desire to conquer other lands. And there are clever choreographed touches throughout, including the monks’ scattering of snow under spotlights. An entertaining medieval musical romp with a sly nod to the contemporary, it might not be the next Les Mis but Blondel has enough lighthearted laughs to keep the audience entertained.
Photo: Scott Rlyander
Blondel is at the Union Theatre from 21st June until 15th July 2017. For further information or to book visit here.