Music by Peter Allwood :
Book and Lyrics by Peter Allwood, Joanna Horton, Jeremy James Taylor and Frank Whatley
King Arthur Pendragon, Guinevere, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay and the Knights of the Round Table - they're all here in the National Youth Music Theatre's thrilling exploration of the darker depths of Arthurian legend, the smash hit of the 1994 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and now staged in London and New York. Comedy, poetry, puppetry, magic, mime and an uplifting musical score make Pendragon a spectacular theatrical experience.
The scene is the Dark Ages. The tribes of Britain struggle for survival and warring factions fight for supremacy. Uther Pendragon emerges to become King of Britain, but though he unites the country, the peace he achieves is an uneasy one. Uther takes and marries the Duke of Cornwall's wife and they have a son, Arthur, but they must give him up to Merlin, Uther's visionary advisor. They send Arthur's half-sister, Morgan, to the Abbey of Glastonbury to be raised by nuns, but she becomes bitter and vengeful in the convent She discovers a mysterious power to will things to happen and, as the years pass, her power grows.
Arthur has a difficult time with the Merlin, but find learning Geography and Philosophy from the back of an airborne falcon more exciting than books and maps. He is raised in the home of Sir Ector, a country knight, and forges a strong friendship with Ector's son, Kay. He also meets "Uncle" Pellinore, king of the Western Lakes, an eccentric who devotes his life to tracking down a fearsome dragon, the dreaded Beast of Borrowdale.
Morgan escapes from the convent and a chance meeting with Arthur in the forest changes the life of each. He rejects her, she curses him. The curse is to be fulfilled. Meanwhile, Uther's reign ends amidst civil upheaval and Arthur amazes everyone but Merlin by pulling Excalibur from the stone to become High King. Henceforth, he bears his fathers name: Pendragon.
Guinevere, on her way to Arthur's coronation, learns her destiny from the Lady of the Lake. At the coronation, Arthur makes alliances and exacts pledges of loyalty, b= one of his allies, The evil Sir Malaigaunce, is in league with Morgan. Arthur then falls out midi Kay by refusing him permission to marry a peasant girl. The first part of Morgan's curse is fulfilled.
Arthur falls in love with Guinevere and makes her his queen, but he is away for long periods and she is tempted by the handsome Malaigaunce. When Arthur returns, Morgan steals Excalibur -another part of her curse fulfilled - and although Guinevere begs him to stay, he goes to search for the precious sword. Guinevere falls into Morgan's hands, is transformed into a Loathly Lady and left to wander the forest, fulfilling the final part of Morgan's curse. Morgan hurls Excalibur into the Lake of Avalon in preparation for Pendragon's destruction.
Arthur surveys his kingdom from the back of his falcon, realises his misjudgements and castigates himself for his stupidity, and his renewed moral vision enables him to overcome Morgan through a series of trials. He meets the hideous Loathly Lady, who promises to return his power if he grants her one wish in the presence of his court. When he agrees, she leads him to Lake Avalon and Excalibur. In return, she demands his hand in marriage and, when he finally agrees, Morgan's spell is broken and love and harmony reign at the court of Arthur Pendragon as Excalibur rests in the heart of a Round Table.
Young Morgan - Alto
Young Arthur - Treble
Young Guinevere - Mezzo
The Merlin - Tenor
King Pellinore - Baritone
Kay - Baritone
Morgan Le Fay - Alto
Arthur Pendragon - Tenor
Guinevere/Loathly Lady - Soprano
Lady of the Lake - Soprano
4 Attendants - 2 Mezzos, 2 Altos
There are many other characters with short sung solos or exclusively speaking roles.
In the Pit
Piano, Synthesiser, Double Bass, Flute doubling Alto Flute, Pan Pipes (transcription for Clarinet available), Horn in F (transcriptions for Trumpet and Trombone available), Percussion (Glockenspiel, Timpani, Tam-tam, Cymbals, Snare Drum, Bass D, Mark Tree, Triangle, Woodblock, Claves, Shaker/Eggs, 2 Trap Trays)
On Stage, if possible
Gamelan (or other similar percussion), Harp
Note to the Musical Director
Pendragon is an ensemble piece for a versatile company. Every member of the cast should play various roles and principal singers should take part in many of the chorus numbers.
The score is essentially piano-based. The horn part is technically demanding - hence the transcriptions for trumpet/ trombone. Percussion can be played by one versatile player, although two or more players is preferable. An Indonesian gamelan formed part of the stage set in the original production and was played by members of the cast. If a gamelan is not available, a mixture of xylophones, metallophones, glockenspiels and gongs can be an alternative.
Sets and costumes can be simple. The original production used various rough-hewn rostra, fixed or moveable, and large canvas drapes to suggest a primeval cave and act as masking. Everyone can have a basic costume - a rough hessian top and trousers - over which can be worn cloaks, furs or simple dresses to represent particular characters.
All can be impressionistic. Skeletal puppets represent the White Stag, the Black Raven, the Falcon and the Beast of Borrowdale and their manipulators should be seen. Masks of papier maché or plaster can be used to great effect. Simple solutions can be found for every technical problem. An actor holding a tall, rough stave against his apparently inanimate body becomes a tree. An actress playing an inanimate tree can imitate a baby crying at the same time if she is close enough to the nurse carrying the bundle. A strong floor-level back-light and shadow-cloth will create giants. Smoke, dry-ice and blue lighting gel will transform any space into the magical Lake of Avalon.
Application for a licence to perform Pendragon must be made, BEFORE REHEARSALS COMMENCE, to the publisher listed in the Showlist
Vocal scores and libretti are available on sale only. : Orchestral material is available on hire only.