Story Pocket Theatre adapt Michael Morpurgo's King Arthur
David Gant and Sarine Sofair (Game of Thrones) star in this fantasy for all the family
It all starts with a young boy: both onstage and off. In Story Pocket Theatre's new production of King Arthur, a drowning child is rescued by an old man claiming to be Arthur Pendragon. As his story unfolds, the audience is transported back to the days of Camelot, Excalibur, Lancelot, the Lady of the Lake and the myriad other characters populating this exciting legend.
Meanwhile, up on stage, actor David Gant will finally fulfil an ambition he's held since he himself was a young boy. 'When I was at school, we used to go on trips to the cinema, and I remember seeing the musical Camelot with Richard Harris as the king,' recalls Gant. 'And from then on I wanted to play him. He's just one of those iconic characters that it would be superb to play. So when I met up with Story Pocket Theatre and they talked about me playing King Arthur or Merlin, I told them I'd always wanted to play King Arthur: and now I am. I hope I can serve him well.'
A stalwart of both stage and screen, including parts in Gandhi, Brazil and Braveheart, Gant has performed in everything from serious drama to panto. For him, joining Story Pocket Theatre – known for its highly inventive physical storytelling – has been an exciting new challenge, which started with the source material: Michael Morpurgo's 1994 novel, Arthur, High King of Britain. 'I found Michael's book to be extremely adventurous and at times very moving; as is the script, which has been adapted from it. And Story Pocket Theatre has a wonderful gift for telling stories, which takes us all right back to the beginning, to when you lie in bed as a child and someone tells you a story.'
For the past few years, Story Pocket has been building a strong reputation and loyal following at the Fringe. Its debut production in 2014, Arabian Nights, featured a talented cast using a clever set and their own skill to bring tales from One Thousand and One Nights alive. Then, in 2015, the company returned with A Pocketful of Grimms and Storyteller, Storyteller (both of which are back this August). With King Arthur, not only have they enlisted Gant for the title role, but Sarine Sofair, who played Lhara in Game of Thrones, will take on the parts of both Guinevere and Lady of the Lake. It's testament to Story Pocket's ethos and vision that such high-calibre actors are keen to work with them, and that Morpurgo himself is their patron, commending them for 'sharing stories in a bright, imaginative way'.
So far, Story Pocket has proved itself adept at choosing tales that both children and adults want to see and hear. But it's how they deliver them that counts and, as Gant says, the company's energetic style fires the imagination of all who see them. 'With very physical storytelling, you have to connect with the audience and get them to connect with you,' he says. 'So instead of them just sitting there and watching, you involve them in the piece, particularly the children, in order to capture their imagination.'
Michael Morpurgo's King Arthur, Gilded Balloon at the Museum, Lothian Street, 6–29 Aug (not 16, 22), 2.45pm, £10–£12 (£8–£10). Previews 3–5 Aug, £6.