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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow The Bunker Trilogy: Morgana
The Bunker Trilogy: Morgana
Published on Monday, 19 August 2013

5 stars

C venues - C nova (venue website)
31 Jul, 1-26 Aug, 5:45pm-6:50pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

Climb to the very top of the half-derelict C Nova, and you’ll find yourself in the “bunker”. One of three plays to occupy this magnificently disconcerting space, Morgana is a retelling of an Arthurian tale – set on the front line of the First World War. A clever script is matched by faultless acting, with results that are haunting, inspiring, but often hilarious too.

The wartime milieu is brilliantly realised, thanks to a truly all-encompassing set.  Every square inch of the room – in front of you, behind you, above you – is dressed with wood, sandbags or corrugated iron, and there’s an ominous stairway in the corner which presumably leads to the trenches of the front line.  The sense of menace is delicately maintained, with just a few flickering lights and the occasional muffled sound to indicate the shells falling overhead.  It all adds up to a sense of portentous claustrophobia, without ever distracting from the meat of the play.

And meaty the script surely is.  I doubt it would teach you the Arthurian legends if you’d never heard them before, but provided you know the basics of Le Morte d’Arthur you’ll admire the subtle parallels drawn to the classic tale.  The three army officers inhabiting the bunker represent Arthur, Lancelot and Gawain; while back at home in England, we hear of Arthur’s sweetheart, Guinevere.  Most intriguingly of all, there’s the flirtatious Morgana – at times a prostitute, at times a spy, and at times perhaps an apparition.  Like Morgan le Fey in the original legends, Serena Manteghi’s Morgana seems to act for both good and ill, an ambiguity that’s maintained right up to the inevitable (though, it must be said, slightly under-sold) conclusion.

The four-strong cast all deliver impeccable performances.  There’s a lot of humour in Jamie Wilkes’ script, much of it surrounding James Marlowe’s lovably awkward Gawain – who’s talked through the basics of love and lust by his more experienced comrades.  Dan Wood’s Arthur is a charm-filled leader, all bristling moustache and easy bonhomie, while Sam Donnelly as Lancelot captures the heroic but unforgiving demeanour of his legendary counterpart.  Needless to say, tempers occasionally fray in the confines of the bunker, but what’s most touching is the way the three men rally whenever it really matters.  Wilkes tackles the horror of war – but he dares to celebrate its camaraderie, too.

The creative team behind Morgana is spun out of Belt Up, the immersive-theatre specialists who have recently been such a well-known pillar of the Edinburgh scene.  Belt Up’s influence is clear in this production, yet there’s an added maturity to it too.  There’s no audience interaction thrown in for the sake of it; in fact, the only transgression of the fourth wall is a well-judged sing-along, which builds a sense of companionship as we file into the eponymous bunker.  From then on, we’re entirely in the hands of the actors… and when they’re such fine actors, nothing at all was lost by giving them unchallenged command of the stage.

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