Review: Sheffield shines and the Crucible burns in revolutionary retelling of King Arthur

A Sheffield People's Theatre Co-Production with Slung Low'Camelot: The Shining City''By James Phillips''Alan Lane'Director'David Farley'Designer'Matt Angrove'Sound Designer'Heather Fenoughty'Composer'Lucy Hind'Movement Director
A Sheffield People's Theatre Co-Production with Slung Low'Camelot: The Shining City''By James Phillips''Alan Lane'Director'David Farley'Designer'Matt Angrove'Sound Designer'Heather Fenoughty'Composer'Lucy Hind'Movement Director
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For most of its inhabitants, Sheffield is already the centre of the universe.

So the idea that the city could birth and spark a revolution, before going on to wrest control from Westminster, doesn’t require a complete suspension of disbelief.

It was one of many believable themes in a modern-day retelling of King Arthur, hosted by the Crucible this week.

Camelot: The Shining City takes audiences from the comfort of their theatre seats out into the city centre, with impressive scenes in Tudor Square and the Peace Gardens.

Military vehicles, civil unrest, tear gas, fire fights, rioters with flares and a flame throwing tank turn some of Sheffield’s most aesthetically pleasing public places into a warzone.

The enormous cast, who mingle among the audience in the outdoor scenes to create the required atmosphere and drag punters into the storyline, are led by a dynamic performance by Tia Bannon.

The Rada actor is one of only four professionals among the cast, joining 110 amateurs and the crew.

Bannon transforms her teenage tearaway character Bear into an utterly creditable revolutionary leader, the Arthur the country needs.

In an alarmingly short space of time she goes from swaying back and forth on a child’s swing, to cold blooded murder and eventually civil war.

From the moment she rocks up late to class, assuming the role of the clown and the rebel, to the moment her revolution spirals out of control, you can believe people would follow the youngster.

It’s an impressive display, in Bannon’s first ‘job.’

Ed MacArthur is extremely likable, as Luke – initially the comic relief and then the devoted, if conflicted First Knight at Arthur’s right hand.

Writer James Phillips and Alan Lane, director of Slung Low Theatre Company, throw in some really nice, novel touches.

The moment when audience members are invited to visit a website and watch a video on their smartphones, to accompany the narration, is a geeky idea that just seems to fit.

The use of the glass-fronted section above the Crucible entrance as a stage, the audience tuning into the outdoor scenes on headphones and little details like snipers on the roof make it a genuinely entertaining and immersive experience.

It’s all around you, from the minute the Crucible is evacuated due to ‘fire’ to the moment a young actress hurls a smoke bomb over the heads of the audience.

The real magic, is that they manage to pull off a huge logistical task, and vast outdoor settings, without looking cheap, tacky or lost among the tall city centre buildings.

Sheffield provides a backdrop that money can’t buy, and the cast grace it with an epic and unique performance.