Take Arthurian legend, drizzle lightly with songs, add wild-west flavour and transfer to the baking metal desert of a far off starship.
This is a storytelling performance by The Mechanisms, a nine-piece steampunk band of immortal space pirates (from Oxford) who take traditional tales and songs and reimagine them as space opera.
And so, a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, Sheriff Arthur is the brains behind the Pendragon Gang as they ride into a two-cylinder town at high noon to confront corrupt Lavinia Stone and pull her tin badge from her. This sees the beginning of a quest through Fort Galfridian, a world where the steel floor meets the sky with no horizon. Along the way they will encounter Saxons, ghouls from the part of the ship with the thinnest radiation shielding, whose raids have apparently killed Arthur’s daughter. Following prophesies and the fire and brimstone visions of the preacher Father Galahad they venture deeper and deeper to discover the fate of the holder of The Grail. The destiny of the once and future king will depend on a truce with the Saxons, the strength of his love triangle with Guinevere and Lancelot and the return of trans-gendered Mordred. Riding off into the sunset might take on a whole new meaning.
Neither a musical nor cabaret as such, this is a storytelling with songs. The large band play an even larger assortment of instruments in well arranged numbers that move from folk to blues inspired, while the main theme manages to sound like a version of “My Funny Valentine” that has been sucked through a black hole. The band play well and the music occasionally soars, but the vocals are a little less assured in places.
The reason to adopt the gunslinger theme is not apparent, other than it gives an excuse for firearms and whiskey, and while the story telling is fairly strong the language is less than lyrical. The appropriation of the legend is entirely appropriate as what we might call folk musicians are just as accurately called storytellers. The re-enactment of myth is also fairly common in science fiction, where stories that grew from a particular culture can contain universal truths. Here the handling is more video game plot that hard SF.
For most people this will be fairly niche (verging on nerdy) stuff, but if you find yourself wearing a hat, goggles and pocket watch you might have found your holy grail.
Show Times: 9 - 23 August (not 19) 2014 at 1.45pm.
Ticket Prices: Free as part of PBH’s Free Fringe (donations at end).