King Arthur and the Tales of Camelot

QPAC Playhouse (Queensland Ballet)


Kevin Rudd the Ballet!

The story of the once and future king is brought to life in the guise of King Arthur and his Knights striving to draw warring factions together against a common enemy.

At about this point the analogy breaks down; nonetheless this Queensland Ballet production is a marvellous journey into Celtic medieval myths, Oedipal father-son conflict and the tragic love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.

The first Act brings us an exquisite moonlight scene where Morgane, half sister of Arthur (Clare Morehen) and Vivienne, Chief Priestess of Avalon (Lisa Edwards) carry out sacred rites with the priestesses of Avalon to the haunting music of “Claire de Lune” by Claude Debussy played by 14 members of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. The virginal purity of the priestesses dressed in white against the backdrop of stars gives a sacred dimension to the story.

Shortly thereafter the Beltane fires are lit and a pagan orgy ensues where the pale light of moon and stars is offset by flickering firelight to reveal writhing bodies in pagan orgy. This is definitely not the light frolic of Lerner & Loewe musical and film “Camelot”. The Queensland Ballet brings to the stage both the sacred and profane impulses which have kept the Camelot legend alive for so many centuries.

Keian Langdon gives a strong performance as Arthur, King of all Britain. In dancing the role of Arthur’s half sister, Morgane, Clare Morehen delivers a tour de force. She displays both technical virtuosity and emotional range.

Shortly before the end of Act 1, Arthur’s Queen Guinevere (Rachael Walsh) brings her magic presence to the stage. Walsh is a preternatural gift of the gods to the world of ballet. She glides through a heart-wrenching pas de trois with her husband Arthur and her beloved Lancelot. Walsh’s dance embodies an empathy and at times pathos of which only a truly great artist is capable.

It is heartening to hear the Queensland Symphony Orchestra play live at the ballet. These fine musicians take us through an eclectic range of music from Gustav Mahler to Edward Elgar. The use of Albert Ginastera’s music in the sensual pagan rituals is particularly effective.

In an unusual twist, the role of Merlin (Dan Crestani) involves not only dancing but also narrative. He pops up in unexpected spots to tell the audience each step in the complex tales of the sword Excalibur, the incestuous union of Arthur with his half sister Morgane, Arthur’s conflict with their son Mordred and the quest for the Holy Grail. Dan Cristani is a fine story-teller in both dance and voice.

This is a must-see ballet. It tells us the legend of what drove folk way back when and what drives us now.

Choreographer and director: Francois Klaus
Music director and arranger: Craig Allister Young
Music by Albert Ginastera, Max Bruch, Gustav Mahler, Gabriel Faure, Edward Elgar, Claude Debussy, Ottorino Respighi and Eric Whitacre
Music performed by Queensland Symphony Orchestra
Set designer: Bruce McKinven
Costume designer: Noelene Hill
Lighting designer: David Walters
Synopsis development: Francois Klaus, David Walters, Robin White
Text by Helen Howard

Performances 15-29 October 2011
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)

— Matt Foley
(Performance seen: Fri 14th October 2011)