With an impressive array of classic literary references and legendary rock songs, Knights of the Rose promised an ambitious if slightly bizarre show, inspired by such immortal writers as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Keats, Blake, and many others. However, this turned out to be a rather simple tale of the brave medieval knights risking their lives for the kingdom while falling in love with the maidens that chose someone else.
No real drama there then, just a shop-bought romance accompanied by beautiful dresses and honourable swords. There wasn’t any twist to the story, which is a shame because making a point of using the words of the greatest story tellers who ever lived ended up being un-justified. Although the characters didn’t get a chance to develop any subtler traits, there were nonetheless a couple of moving moments in the show (notably Ruben Van keer acting as John and Oliver Savile as Sir Hugo), owed to genuinely fine acting from the cast.
The instrumental and vocal sides of the show were mostly superb and the tuning of the chords and the expression of all the actors impressive, especially considering how challenging all the songs were. The repertoire consisted of powerful numbers dominated by Bon Jovi, a choice that would find most singers covered in cold sweat. Katie Birtill as Princess Hannah was outstanding but the Mozart duet she tackled with Oliver Savile was, at most, questionable. Even if brought down to a warming tune for the happy ending, Mozart will always be revealing (and frightening to perform) so perhaps a better choice of an aria (or altogether a different song) would be more successful.
Knights of the Rose is a curious show. It will be entertaining for some, grotesque for others but it is undoubtedly well-prepared, with some solid classics-inspired choreography (Racky Plews) and really fine lighting work (Tim Deiling). You do need to know what you are signing up for though. It is a bizarre collage and one rather difficult to reconcile. The speech and the medieval set are so stylistically incompatible with the songs that it will cause some to giggle and the cheesiness will get cringy. I knew what I would be watching and it still took me a good 15 seconds after every song started to get used to a change of feel (High School Musical feel-I should add), although the overall quality of all the actors and musicians involved made up for it to some extent. The musical is a result of work of some top-class professionals but such a talented cast could definitely do with a challenge better thought-through.