The First King of England in a Dress

14/08/19

theSpace Triplex (Studio), Edinburgh

Epic Tales give a likeable performance in The First King of England in a Dress, a story of Vikings and English folk – and, of course, good ol’ King Canute. Between them, Kate Madison, Chip Colquhoun and Izzy Dawson portray a raft of characters, holding the audience’s attention with ease.

It’s not perfect. For starters, it’s crying out for a soundtrack to help convey both mood and location. And I’m not sure why the audience participation is limited to reluctant adults; it seems to me it would make more sense to take enthusiastic child volunteers. Sure, they’re less predictable and might derail the story a little, but I think the cast should take that risk. The piece could benefit from the silliness that may ensue, and it’d be easy enough for these seasoned storytellers to get things back on track.

The biggest issue for me though is the gender stereotyping, which seems a little out of step with current thinking. Of course, the story demands that girls are disguised as boys to escape the evil woman-hunting monks, but the narrative could surely acknowledge that’s not how we do things now, that signifiers such as dresses and long hair are no longer important.

Still, it’s an enjoyable fifty minutes, and these three performers certainly know how to tell a tale. The props are detailed and interesting, creating a real sense of the time and place. Young performer Izzy Dawson has a truly lovely singing voice, and I like the use of the lyre to accompany her. A rain stick is also utilised to great effect.

These three actors have an easy rapport with the kids in the audience, and have created an enjoyable little show.

3 stars

Susan Singfield

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