In Young King Arthur, we get to know Arthur as a young boy learning about life with the help of mystical Merlin and other magical friends. Arthur has many adventures with his foster brother Kay that are indirectly engineered by Merlin. Merlin uses these experiences to both guide Arthur and to assess his behavior so he can determine if Arthur will be a good King in the future.
Along his journeys, Arthur meets several colorful characters, one of whom is a fierce dragon who turns out not to be so fierce after all! There’s a surprising development which has earned the dragon its reputation, but you’ll have to see the show to find out what that is!
Even if you’re familiar with the legend of King Arthur, this unique production from the Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts is something to look forward too. The puppet characters are nicely done and move realistically. It’s easy to forget about the master puppeteers who are nearly invisible against the black background, manipulating and lending their voices to the characters. The style of puppetry used in Young King Arthur is a blending of Czech Black Theatre with elements of Bunraku, a form of traditional Japanese puppetry where the puppeteer appears in full view. The master puppeteers dress in all black which makes them appear neutral so the focus is on the colorful, animated puppets.
Young King Arthur starts with medieval visuals on a big screen. A booming voice provides a dialogue about the legend of King Arthur and helps the audience understand how the story played out in this performance fits in with the overall timeline. Accompanying music and the creative use of light and shadow make for a wonderfully dramatic opening for the performance. Also dramatic (and one of our favorite scenes!) is when Arthur pulls the sword out of the stone, slowly lifts it up and then holds it high above his head in a show of triumph and hope for the people.
Writer, B. Wolf adapted Young King Arthur using Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain” as a starting point. Along with the usual favorites, Ms. Wolf has created a couple of original characters: an owl named Ornithia and a merlin hawk that Merlin uses as a disguise for some of the scenes. These characters lend a sense of fun to Merlin’s actions and to the overall performance.
After the show, enjoy a meet and greet with the master puppeteers and the puppet stars of the show. It’s a treat being able to see the puppets up close and ask questions about the show. The master puppeteers are great about answering questions and letting kids take photos with the puppet characters.
Image Credit #2 and #3 – Karen Almond
Disclosure: Dallas Children’s Theater invited my family to see this performance of Young King Arthur