"enormously silly"

"strong cast"

"medieval romance set to rock songs"
-The Stage-

Sorry, Knights of the Rose closed on 26 Aug 2018

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'Some serious toe-curling moments'

Critic Rating

4 July 2018, Arts Theatre
Susannah Martin Susannah Martin
Rock musicals are apparently very “in”, with fan-cult phenomenon Bat Out of Hell and a new UK tour of Rock of Ages booking up fast. It comes as no surprise, then, that Jennifer Marsden’s Knights of the Rose could appeal. Sadly, the faux Game of Thrones-esque dud of a show falls short. It’s entertaining, sure, but for all the wrong reasons.

Jukeboxes survive on a strong plot, yet Knights’ story strangely manages to be both non-existent and excruciatingly predictable: a bunch of guys return from war to be confronted with fair maidens, only to go back to war and later be reunited with fair maidens – with a bit of death and a guitar solo thrown in.

On seeing the song list, it’s baffling that anyone would combine Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” with No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak”, let alone a grating full-length song from Henry Purcell’s “King Arthur”. It really, really does not work. Not only are the songs painfully shoe-horned in, but the utter seriousness in which they are performed induces some serious toe-curling moments.

Oliver Savile’s Sir Hugo is dealt the rawest deal, having to speak/sing “Changes” whilst cradling his dead friend (who, by the way, took a whole song to perish). It’s a shame, because Savile is an incredibly good performer. As are the entire cast, in fact, with some smashing work from Chris Cowley as dark and brooding Sir Palamon, and fierce vocals from Rebekah Lowings and Katie Birtill as Lady Isabel and Princess Hannah, respectively.

Unfortunately, the strength of the actors only goes to prove how dire the material is, wheeled round the stage on Diego Pitarch’s clumsily-created set. And whilst Racky Plews has previous credits such as the brilliant American Idiot, her choreography is cramped and unforgiving on the Arts Theatre stage.

With shows such as Hamilton, Motown and Tina proving the huge talent in diverse casting, Knights of the Rose has zero excuse for being so regressive. It needs serious re-thinking and re-working in order to be remotely salvageable - why oh why does it take itself quite so seriously? It’s probably best that it goes down in a blaze of… Well, I guess you can’t even say glory.

Reviewed by Susannah Rose Martin.

The good bits: the tunes. Banger after banger. Bonnie Tyler, Gwen Stefani, REM, The Calling. The sizeable ensemble crank them out gamely.
Daisy Bowie-Sell
Well, having now seen the piece, I can confirm that no, it doesn't work. At all. From its dodgy, dour, rickety castle sets, to its clunky, strong-arming of tunes into a horribly damp squib of a plot, it struggles and strains its way through two and a half hours.
The Stage
Very few shows elicit a genuine toe-curling wince. This one does it in almost every scene.