Review of Finding Excalibur

Marie Bilodeau and I performed our show, Finding Excalibur: Tales of King Arthur and the evolution of a legend, on March 11th at the Tea Party. (I know, I forgot to post before the show.) The Tea Party is a cozy, intimate space, great for storytelling, and it was packed. We had a few people standing in the hallway or sitting on the stairs. Marie opened the show with a story Arthur becoming king and finding Excalibur (featuring a dragon ship and shining people). For the second set I told Culhwch and Olwen from the Mabinogion, in which Arthur helps his cousin Culhwch fight the nightmarish boar, Trwyth in order to win the hand of a maiden from her giant father. The story draws on old celtic oral traditions. I took a couple of Arthurian classes in university: Arthur of the Celts from the Celtic studies department which looked at who a real historical Arthur could have been along with the legends about him up until Geoffrey of Monmouth; and the King Arthur class from the English Lit department that started with Monmouth and carried through with the literature until Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I’ve been fascinated with how the stories of Arthur have evolved and morphed over the years and have wanted to tell one of those older celtic stories since I took the beginner’s storytelling workshop a couple of years ago. Finally, Marie closed the show with a story about the decline of Arthur’s reign and touching on the love triangle with Lancelot and Guinevere. I had a lot of fun developing this show with Marie.

Elaine O’Reilly was kind enough to write this review of our show for the Ottawa StoryTeller’s newsletter. Thanks Elaine for your kind words! I am so glad to hear people enjoyed listening as much as Marie and I enjoyed telling these stories.

The Excalibur Tea Party by Elaine O’Reilly

So, you think you know the story of King Arthur, Guinevere and the sword, Excalibur? My husband and I and my 12-year-old grandson thought we did. But our pre-conceived ideas were whisked away by the magical weaving of new, or should I say very, very old, stories at the March 11th Tea Party.

Marie Bilodeau and Nicole Lavigne took us from the beginning of Arthur’s reign at 15 years old through the rise and demise of his kingdom with storylines different than we had heard before. Arthur given his sword by a Lady of the Lake? What, no stone! Arthur on a mission to kill a Giant so his cousin could marry the Giant’s daughter? King Arthur will return after death?

The stories were captivating; the tellers voices mirrored beautifully the mood of the stories. The quest for the Giant was raucus and violent. The reunion with Guinevere after her betrayal of Arthur’s love enveloped the listeners with romance and gentle forgiveness. The description of Arthur’s last hours before death left us with more hope than any other ending we had heard or read. In all, our evening was thoroughly enjoyable and from the positive reaction in the extremely crowded room, it was just as enjoyable to the other listeners.

(Elaine O’Reilly is a very active member of the Ottawa Storytellers).

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