★★★ | Camelot, The Shining City
Sheffield Theatres join forces with the innovative Slung Low Theatre Company to present an intriguing and immersive theatrical experience. Whilst this is a show which takes inspiration from the legend of King Arthur and which borrows both characters and plot points, this is by no means a straight retelling, but instead sets the action in a dysfunctional, near-future Sheffield, where totalitarian rule by a military dictatorship sparks revolution, rebirth and riot.
Utilising a cast of 150 people, made up of a mixture of professional actors and members of the Sheffield People’s Theatre, this is theatre on a big scale. Starting on the stage of the Crucible Theatre itself, the action, cast and audience subsequently spill out into the summer evening in Tudor Square outside the theatre itself; with the action then moving to the Peace Gardens in the town centre for the final act.
Soldiers patrol the crowds, riot police with spotlights line the roofs of the neighbouring buildings, rioters mingle with the audience members, military jeeps sweep up the square, a taxi is smashed during a riot and pyrotechnics light up the twilight of the evening as the show culminates. This is not just your run of the mill street theatre; it is street theatre on an impressive and grand scale.
Where this show is a real success is that it quite literally places you; as an audience member; right in the middle of the action, with the play taking place all around you. Each audience member is given a headset with a radio receiver, which allows you not only to hear every word spoken by the cast, but also allows for interior monologues of the characters to be heard, for atmospheric music and sound effects to consume you and to effectively isolate you from the “real world” making you feel even more a part of what is being portrayed in front of you.
Whilst the actual story itself was not particularly strong and the performances were never more than functional, there was some clever writing involved. Key plot points were written into the story to signify the change of performance venue, and even the transporting of the audience was part of the play itself, not only flowing with the story, but including you being surrounded by the cast still in character. There were a number of local references which further assisted in blurring the lines of the real world and world on stage; and the presentation and grandiose nature of the whole thing was tremendously impressive.
As someone who is fortunate enough to frequent the theatre regularly, this was not only very well and smartly staged, but was a wholly different and highly enjoyable theatrical experience unlike any other I have attended. For those looking for a very unique evening of theatre, look no further.
Camelot – The Shining City is currently playing at Sheffield Theatres until 18th July 2015. For details and tickets, visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000