Critics are raving about Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult, which is touring the UK at the moment before coming to Galway International Arts Festival in July.
Giving it 5 stars in its review, The Times’ Dominic Maxwell called the piece “one of the masterpieces of 21s century theatre", saying the pivots in the piece were remarkable.
The Times on Kneehigh's Tristan & Yseult
“How can the disarmingly blokish Mike Shepherd as Mark make us fear and feel for this cuckolded king? How can Niall Ashdown, dragging up as Yseult’s maid Brangian, make us snort with laughter one moment and weep for her loneliness the next? How can we cheer at the band’s funky rendering of Get Lucky then suck up all the elegant sadness in Carl Grose and Anna Maria Murphy’s script the next? And how can Stu Barker and his band, playing on top of an elegantly versatile set by Bill Mitchell, suspend us in a soundtrack that’s part rock, part folk, part spy-film music, and make it merge with extracts from Nick Cave and Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde?
“I could argue that it’s because all the theatrical flourishes serve the storytelling, and never distract from it. I could tell you that the cast know how to sing and move. That we all know what it means to belong to the Club of the Unloved. That it’s a show that springs from the head and the heart and the groin in equal measure. Perhaps I’m still swooning too hard to be entirely logical. I can tell you this for sure, though — I’ve never loved a night in the theatre more,” he wrote.
The Stage on Kneehigh's Tristan & Yseult
Also giving it 5 stars, The Stage’s Tracey Sinclair called it a “fizzing, intoxicating cocktail”.
“Moving, romantic, but also sometimes silly and sometimes sad, it has a surprisingly complex perspective on love, including the collateral damage (with a bit of class consciousness thrown in). It's a romance about being unloved and discarded, a tale of loyalty – to a husband, to a king – rewarded with scorn and indifference,” she wrote.
The Telegraph on Kneehigh's Tristan & Yseult
The Telegraph also gave the production 5 stars, calling it "a blast of defiantly silly but touching escapism at a time we need it most."
"With a poetic, postmodernist script by Carl Grose and Anna Maria Murphy, which, by turns, mocks the tragic lovers’ legend while wringing it for all its emotion and melodrama, the production has all the groundling-pleasing knockabout humour and direct engagement that is the calling card of the Globe. It wilfully, shamelessly, and entirely successfully mixes the ancient with the modern, combining a live band playing everything from medieval ditties, to Irish reels, samba and modern pop (“We’re up all night to get lucky”) to draw the audience into the party atmosphere," reviewer Tim Auld wrote.
The Arts Desk on Kneehigh's Tristan & Yseult
The Arts Desk, meanwhile, called it a “wonderful synthesis of artforms”, lauding Adapter and Director Emma Rice for creating “a playful and inventive two hours of storytelling”.
“There's much to laugh at, but she knows too how to tug at the heartstrings. At the end, we learn that love does not conquer all, we don't choose who we fall in love with and, for every person who knows the joy of love, there's somebody else who is set for lifetime membership of The Club of the Unloved,” The Arts Desk reviewer Veronica Lee wrote.
Tristan & Yseult comes to the Town Hall Theatre from 18-22 July as part of Galway International Arts Festival 2017. Tickets are priced at €22-€29.50.