FRINGE REVIEW – Knightmare Live


By Jen McGregor

There are some really good things about Knightmare Live. The sets are inventive and the company does a fantastic job of bringing the rooms that many of us remember so well to life. The Corridor of Blades, the floor puzzles and the wall monsters all make an appearance, and they’re cleverly rendered. It’s lovely to be in a room full of people who remember the most difficult and brutal of kids’ game shows and know that they still think of it fondly.

However, it’s a pity that the attention to detail displayed in some of the set and props isn’t there throughout. Considering that the show is trading on all the characters and catchphrases that we remember from childhood, it seems strange that so many of them are incorrect. The incredibly plummy Stiletta has acquired a West Country drawl and stopped throwing knives, the infamous “you’re about to die” music never appears, the spyglass is waved in front of the Helm rather than the Eye Shield  and the bell that tolled the death knell of so many quests is replaced by pounding dance music. If you remember Knightmare but don’t remember it that well, this is unlikely to be an issue. Diehard fanatics, on the other hand, will spot the errors at once. (If you’ve never seen the TV show, expect to be very confused.)

The performances are energetic all round, but the material is played for laughs rather more than it should be. Rather than trusting that Knightmare played by adults is always going to be funny, the actors camp it up and go for the cheap laughs. They are not playing the characters from the show, they are comedians dressing up as these characters and doing impressions that aren’t necessarily bad, but lack the precision that would really bring the characters to life. It feels like it should be billed as Knightmare: The Panto.

The show might have been stronger if it had either stuck closer to its source or committed to the decision to depart from it. There was a really interesting bit of back story for Lord Fear introduced near the end. Had it been more thoroughly worked into the script, it could have been quite strong and possibly even poignant. The moments when the characters made reference to the changes that had taken place in the dungeon during the 20 years since Knightmare was taken off the air were by far the most interesting. Instead the show has its moments of being fun, but it never seizes the opportunity to really sparkle.

Knightmare Live runs at Gilded Balloon Teviot from 3 – 25 August (not 14th). Times vary. Running time one hour.

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