Review: Knights of the Rose

Shakespeare is not generally thought of in conjunction with rock and roll music, although he may have garnered rock star level attention in his time. It seems, then, that perhaps it would be possible to combine Shakespeare with some classic rock tunes and bang out an entertaining performance. However, the fact that it can be done does not necessarily mean that it should be done, and that seems to be the case with Jennifer Marsden’s Knights of the Rose.

While Knights of the Rose boasts an impressive soundtrack for lovers of both classic and modern rock, the praise pretty much ends right there. The generic plot jumps all over the place, whirling through weak subplots and landing flat with pretty much every number. Even with an enjoyable list of tunes, this production seems to miss the mark in almost every way.

The story revolves around Prince Gawain (Andy Moss) as he leads his army, the Knights of the Rose, back home after years of victorious battles. Princess Hannah (Katie Birtill) and Princess Isabel (Rebekah Lowings) are delighted to give their hands in marriage to Gawain and his trusty sidekick Hugo (Oliver Savile). Unfortunately, the Knights are summoned back to battle almost immediately, to the chagrin of their long-time lovers. This is a pretty generic medieval story of love and battle, and there isn’t much to set it apart from others in the genre.

The play is full of references to famous writers and their works, but the homages are done quite poorly and blatantly. Marsden seems lost in the art of subtlety, which is quite ironic considering this is supposed to be a tribute to Shakespeare. Although perhaps that’s to be expected from a performance that makes its name from utilizing 80s power ballads and over-the-top love songs.

The sad part about Knights of the Rose is that the actors do a fine job and the combat scenes are chock full of impressive bouts and choreography. Unfortunately, there aren’t many more positives that can be found in this disaster. The story is uninspired, the script is poorly written, and the production value can only be described as cheap. Even with a soundtrack that may appeal to a wide audience, the songs are inserted haphazardly and seem to exist for the mere sake of existing. The links between the tunes and the scenes in which they are introduced are weak at best and catastrophic at worst.

Knights of the Rose has a unique concept, but tremendously fails to execute. If you enjoy the type of music in the playbill, you’re better off catching the cover band at your local dive bar. If you’re a Shakespeare fanatic, you’re better off doing pretty much anything, as this production makes a mockery of all that is holy in his world. If, however, you want to catch some good laughs – unintended laughs, of course – then this could be one of those performances that tickles your fancy in a “what were they thinking?” sort of way.

Knights for the Rose plays at the Arts Theatre in London until 26th August 2018.

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