BRIGHTON FESTIVAL REVIEW: Kneehigh : Tristan & Yseult

May 24, 2017


Tristan & Yseult 

Emma Rice

Sink down upon us. Night of love, make me forget I live.

Cornish King Mark is at war: he rules with his head not his heart. But he hasn’t counted on falling head over heels for his enemy’s sister, or expected the arrival of the enigmatic Tristan.

This is the original tale of forbidden desires, broken hearts and the agony of choosing one human being over another. Seen through the eyes of the ‘Unloved’, Tristan & Yseult blend of comedy, live music, grand passion and tender truths lead us into an utterly convincing, engaging and irresistible night of love. This reprieve of the delightful Emma Rice’s acclaimed staging of the Cornish legend catapulted Kneehigh onto the national stage, leading to many other memorable productions including the stunning Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Kneehigh always get it just right; this bold, flavoursome reinvention of tradition and their blend of comedy, music, physical chorography, dance and top notch performers bring a superb energy to the theatre and their take on classic situations allow us an intimate depth of connection with the action which is often missing from contemporary theatre. Tristan & Yseult is almost a cult these days with a huge fan base of people who love it and it only seems to get better with each outing.

Writers Carl Grose & Anna Maria Murphy have fleshed out this complex story with a focus on feeling and presence of mind so we are given a real insight into the development of the narrative and how that affects the protagonists, some superbly grubby prurient moments and the sensual delights of their seductive seduction. All the extra fun element of balloons, dancing, music, acrobatics clash and combine with a real verve and  the suggestion of intoxicating potions and their hang over effects and a dozen other attention to daft details just thrills the audience who loved every moment of the production last night. My companion was in tears at the distress and tragedy of the final scenes and stayed moved for the rest of the evening,  her first time at a Kneehigh production, she also was seduced by their heady blend of art, music and passion.  Dominic Marsh gave us superb eye candy and is a real hottie in the role of Tristand, another mention must got to Kyle Lima for his gorgeous dancing and moves, Hannah Vassallo shone as Yseult and the opening at the Club of the Unloved was breathtakingly original, combinations of costume, atmosphere and music combining to set the scene perfectly.   This is such a seriously good piece of theatre.

It’s always hard to get a British audience genuinely up on its feet dancing but Kneehigh have the knack of making the theatre joyful, inclusive and fun! Kneehigh are always a festival thrill & banker, they didn’t disappoint last night at the Theatre Royal. And the audience left loud, chatty and in rapture.

All in all a superb evenings’ entertainment balanced with just the right blend of music, excellent engaging performances and some food for thought also.

Full details of this Brighton Festival show can be seen on their website here: