Pending publishing in The Warwick Boar

Oddsocks Theatre Company opened their winter tour on Thursday 26th November at The Royal Spa Centre in Leamington Spa, with a spirited production of The Legend of King Arthur.

For those not familiar with Oddsocks, it is worth giving a brief introduction.  Each year Oddsocks run at least two tours; a series of outdoor performances for their summer tour and a series of indoor venues for their winter tour. Whilst there are familiar faces in each production, the cast is rarely the same from one show to the next, with each show having around five cast members, covering a multitude of character roles. Oddsocks’ style is folk-traditional, giving the feel of a touring band of players, not least due to their penchant for audience participation, breaking into song, ingenious use of costume and the pageant wagon, which forms their touring set for outdoor venues.

Prior to the start of King Arthur, cast members can be found strolling amongst the audience, chatting to audience members and playing folk music on acoustic lutes and guitars. After a round of introductions of each cast member, their stage alter-egos and the range of characters they will be playing, the play opens with an energy and sense of humour that continues throughout, delivering some real laugh-out-loud moments and a sense of merriment to the audience. Cast/audience interplay is very much a part of the show, with cast members bantering with audience late-comers and covering some difficulties with set and costume changes with witty improvisation.

All of the major plot-points of the myths and legends surrounding King Arthur are included, from Peter Hoggart’s naïve, idealist Arthur hefting Excalibur from the stone and a brilliantly-executed battle scene with the dragon to the romantic scenes between Arthur and Lucy Varney’s Guinevere. All of course are delivered with the twists, sense of humour and slickness one expects from an Oddsocks production.

The performance is unashamedly pantomime-esque at times, with Hoggart prompting the audience “is there something behind me?” and Elli Mackenzie, as a deliciously nefarious Morgan Le Fey, teasing the audience into greeting her on stage with boos and hisses. Whilst the pantomime style and audience participation keep the children in the audience entertained, there are enough innuendos to keep the adults giggling, without compromising the show’s family-friendly credentials.

The rather simple set is cleverly manipulated to work well in numerous scenes and excellent use of lighting makes for some nicely atmospheric scenes. The opening show appeared to be experiencing some sound issues and having seen Oddsocks a number of times before, I feel like the company are more at home at the more informal, acoustic outdoor venues, which certainly work well with Oddsocks’ relaxed, informal style.

Overall though, Andy Barrow has directed his Oddsocks troupe to another hilarious, feel-good show. The cast members manage their multiple roles cleverly, giving the impression of an extensive cast through use of costume, accents and body language and it is a surprise to see only five actors taking a bow at the end. In their promotional material, Oddsocks promise “A guaranteed knight of good fun” and they do not disappoint.