Here's a little tip for you - get to the theater early to be entertained by the band at the "Club of the Unloved," with a white-gloved, cat eye glasses-wearing lady singing standards like "Crazy" and "Only the Lonely." Meanwhile, people in black rain jackets, knit hoods, and thick glasses are wandering around with binocolars taking notes. As the show begins, we learn that they are members of the Club, constantly on the look out for love and lovers. Through them we learn the story of Tristan and Yseult, as the hoods come off and the actors become characters in the story. Tristan is sent by King Mark to retrieve Yseult from Ireland to be his bride. Along the way they fall in love due to a love potion. But upon arriving at Cornwall, Yseult finds that she also loves Mark. What follows is a beautiful and tragic love triangle.
Kneehigh is able to tell this story with the deep emotion it requires, but also with a lightness and playfulness and sense of wonder. In addition to the aforementioned balloons (which require a bit of audience participation), they make use of swings, ropes, pulleys, trampolines, many musical instruments (played by the four-piece band and ensemble members), and other props. In the middle of the stage is a circular raised platform where the main action takes place. In one scene the main characters swing from ropes, and it's almost as entertaining to watch the people on the other end of the ropes as they throw themselves off the platform and run to the end of the stage to lift them off the ground.
|Carly Bawden croons as Whitehands
Kneehigh Theatre is so unique in what they do, incorporating physicality, music, aerial work, and other innovative elements, and infusing such heart and playfulness into their work, that I would have recognized Tristan and Yseult as a Kneehigh production even if I hadn't known. They're in town through March 23, check them out for a truly unique and delightful theater experience.