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Tristan and Yseult

Pink Balloons

I went to see Tristan and Yseult at the Birmingham REP today…the following is transcribed from what I wrote down before, after and during the interval. Bare in mind that I bought the tickets to see Tristan and Yseult on a spur of the moment whim, and didn’t really know anything about the story or the production.

“My first trip to the REP, and so far I’m very impressed. I’ve just walked in (to be greated by a band playing on stage – ‘Crazy for Loving You’), the theatre itself is fantastic, the seats are very steaply tiered so there are no worries at all about your view being blocked by someone tall, and the seats themselves are very comfy with a decent amount of leg room.

The twitchers, which I had sort of heard about before, are already out: observing the audience from behind binoculars and balaclavas, though I have to wonder how many in the audience (which is still trickling in) have noticed. The set seems fairly basic, only a few metal staircases and a round wooden platform with a pole sticking out of it.

So…pretty much the only thing I know about this piece is that it’s an old cornish story, and involves some kind of love triangle.”


“First half is over – so far King Mark of Cornwall has been united with Tristan, the Irish King has been killed, Tristan went to Ireland to fetch Yseult (the irish king’s sister) to be King Mark’s bride and, of course, fell in love with her in the process. She loves him, but also loves Mark, who whe has just married.

I am absolutely loving this show. It’s a gorgeous love story, alongside a laugh out loud comedy, crossed with an acrobatics performance…you know it’s going to be interesting when a crash mat and trampoline appear on stage.

The audience aren’t just observers, we are members of the Club of the Unloved, people at the court and the wedding guests. The performers are not just talking, they are talking to us. The love spotters are always on the edge, watching what’s happening (as well as supplying props when needed and making sure no one falls of the stage). The music is energetic and moving, the actors are involved and exciting.

The main actors, Tristan, Yseult, Mark and Mistress Whitegloves are telling the story from a fairly serious point of view. It’s the surrounding characters which provide the humour, but the two sides, the serious and the comedy, mesh together oh so well.

Oooh…the love spotters are back again, mingling around the room. The break must be nearly over. And the band’s back ‘Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps’ .”


“Wow. The second half is much slower, sadder than the first half. We see the stor from the perspective of the maid, the lovers are discovered, Mistress Whitehands story is told and the ending in heart wrenchingly tragic, and told from the center of a ring of fire.

There was a standing ovation at the end. This was very probably the best play I have ever seen. One young man behind me phrased it very well: “Good gravy that was great” (his actualy words). Were it not for having to get home afterwards, I would certainly have gone to see if there were any spare tickets for the evening performance. ”


Having had a few hours to think about the performance now, I still think it was absolutely amazing. There was so much passion in the play. I laughed so much I had a permanent smile fixed to my face. But at the end, yes, there were tears running down my face while I clapped loudly with the rest of the audience. One of the songs played at the end I recognised as being Nick Cave, and was delighted to find, once I got outside, that I had it on my ipod (Sweatheart Come, from the Album “No More Shall We Part“). I listened to it all the way home, reliving the amazingness that was the play.

The show is only on for two more days ( friday the 18th and saturday the 19th), but if you’re in or around Birmingham then beg, borrow and steal to try and get yourself tickets for it. I haven’t enjoyed anything as much as this in a long time, and I will definately be searching out further performances by Kneehigh Theatre.


2 thoughts on “Tristan and Yseult

  1. Pingback: Things I Love - Kneehigh Theatre « Moon In The Gutter

  2. Pingback: Kneehigh - Don John « Moon In The Gutter

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