Friday, July 8, 2011

"Camelot!" "Camelot!" "Camelot!" "It's only a model." "Shh!"

A plot summary of Camelot, the musical King Arthur light-opera endeavor.

King Arthur of Britain and Princess Guinevere of Wherever are due to be wed as part of a political agreement. Gwen (I can’t spell her real name offhand) arrives at Camelot and, while agonizing over her soon-to-be-ended maidenhood, accidentally runs into King Arthur, who has been lurking in the forest trying to get a glimpse of his new bride. Arthur conceals his identity, calling himself Wart (a boyhood name), and convinces a hesitant Gwen to stay in Camelot. Gwen proceeds to kiss Arthur-Wart without knowing that he is to be her husband, introducing the audience to two of her biggest character traits: she enjoys the idea of men fighting over her, and she will cheat.

Arthur is unmasked and, while explaining his identity, manages to make the story of pulling Excalibur out of the stone sound downright boring. He also lets on that he has no idea how to rule or what he is doing. Meanwhile, Merlin (Arthur’s teacher, mentor and rememberer-of-the-future) is trapped in an enchanted glade, never to be seen in the play again.

While throwing around ideas with Gwen, Arthur comes up with the idea for the Round Table, yelling “Proposition!” every time he comes up with a new idea. He also laments incessantly about 1. the necessity of being civilized, 2. Merlin’s long-ago pastime of changing him into animals, 3. everything.

The Round Table begins to attract knights and damsels, most of whom are utter featherheads. One day, Lancelot du Lac rolls up, proclaims himself to be the most pure-hearted, pure-minded, physically gifted man on Earth and offers his services to the King. Arthur takes a liking to him; everyone else finds him an insufferable prick, since he is basically a seventh-century born-again. Gwen, in particular, conspires to have his arse kicked in an upcoming tournament.

The tournament arrives, and Lancelot is pitted against three successive knights in a jousting match. The action takes place with the cast looking out at the audience, and the sound of thundering hooves played from loudspeakers behind the audience, so you get the uncomfortable impression that the joust is somehow taking place right above your head. Lancelot beats the first two random knights, then accidentally kills the third before bringing him back to life by concentrating really hard. The Court is astonished, and Gwen instantaneously swings from “I hate that sonofabitch” to “Jesus Christ but you’re attractive!” Cue the affair. Arthur emotes wildly, agonizes about the affair and then grabs Excalibur, declaring that he’s going to do something about this right the fuck now. Curtain.

(It was here that I was thinking, you all like each other... can’t you sit down at a table and work something out? At least put it on the table that you know, Arthur, and give some permission for them to do it. You can’t stop it, so you might as well find a way to live with it. This does not happen.)

Two years later, Arthur still hasn’t done anything about anything right the fuck now, and Lance and Gwen are still fooling around. Enter Mordred, Arthur’s bastard son by way of some random chick. Another play might have played this for justice on Arthur’s side, but apparently he was roofied and this was long ago, so it isn’t cheating. Mordred gives a perfunctory here-I-am-this-is-my-motivation song, then sets off to destroy Arthur because… well, because fuck you, that’s why.

Mordred traps Arthur in the woods for a night, then catches Lance and Gwen agonizing over their relationship and how it’s hurting Arthur. After a long discussion, they bravely decide to do nothing and make out. They probably would still be there if Mordred hadn’t declared “Dammit, I’m moving the plot forward on my OWN if no one else is!” and ambushed them. Gwen is captured by Round Tablers, while Lancelot escapes. (One of the Tablers is the knight Lance resuscitated, and I was hoping he would to say to Mordred “Fuck you, motherfucker! This guy brought me back from the dead! No way I’m arresting him!” and let him go. Sadly, this also doesn’t happen.)

Fast-forward again. Gwen has been tried, found guilty and sentenced to burn at the stake. Arthur agonizes about it at center stage, while Mordred screeches about how he’s won and Arthur is doomed and blabbity blah blah. You want Arthur to just rear back and punch the sneering little shit in the teeth, but he’s too busy emoting and bawling about Gwen. Lancelot appears, cuts a path through the knights (unseen by the audience) and rescues Gwen.

Fast-forward again, to France. The Round Table is broken; Arthur’s half is lined up ready to fight Lancelot’s half. Lance and Arthur and Gwen meet before the battle, and the conversation goes something like this:

“I love you both!”

“I love you too!”

“I don’t want to fight you!”

“I don’t want to fight you either. Should we call the whole thing off?”


Seriously, it’s a personal feud between the commanders, but in this version Lance and Arthur are best friends even after Gwen cheated on the latter with the former! There is literally no reason for them to be fighting outside of the grudge, and since it doesn’t apply, there IS no reason! But they fight anyway, and it’s at this point where you really start wanting the writers to just flip the familiar Arthurian script and do something massively unexpected, but they don’t. Arthur grabs a random boy, knights him and tells him to go spread tales of the Round Table, then runs off to fight his best friend. Oh fucking joy. Curtain.


Caroline said...

Any redeeming qualities?
Also, by the way, Camelot doesn't qualify as light opera even a little- operetta has much less dialogue and more recitative to move the plot along. And usually better music. : )

Andy said...

Ravishing music and pretty violinists, just for two...

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