[author-post-rating] (4/5 Stars)
Throwing yourself back into the bunker for the continuation of The Bunker Trilogy is yet again a thrilling experience under the direction of Jethro Compton. Where Agamemnon brought a fresher understanding of the drive and determination of characters born from Greek tragedy, Morgana takes inspiration from from the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Once more, audiences are thrown into World War I where, up on the top floor of C Nova, Compton and his team offer a totally immersive experience.
Where Agamemnon dealt out the slow tick tick of neglect and pain, Morgana offers a comedic look at soldiers attempting to survive the war with their wits intact despite their lust for the beautiful and mysterious Morgana Le Fay, a mystical lady who whistles in the night, capturing the hearts of these soldiers so far from home. We join Arthur (Dan Wood), Lancelot (Sam Donnelly) and Gawain (James Marlowe) at Christmas time, with songs and jubilant celebrations, which sets the tone for this dark comedy.
What is perhaps most surprising about Morgana is the relationship that is build between the cast and the spectator. There’s a little more audience interaction than in Agamemnon, but the relationship is more to do with the sense of care that we feel for characters, stuck in this grim war. This is brought about by the comedy, but also through James Wilkes’s wonderfully sharp and witty writing, which transports the friendship and love of the Knights of the Round Table to the trenches of the war. There’s a particular softness about Marlowe’s somewhat bumbling Gawain, whose attempts at jokes and unease with strangers gets the audiences laughing from their bellies – a sound I’ve yet to properly hear from other Edinburgh Fringe shows thus far.
As with Agamemnon, there is a totality to Compton’s direction and design, one continually appreciates the intended story and believes that we are indeed caught in the lives of these three strapping young soldiers. There’s something particularly charming about Wood’s Arthur, the ‘king’ of these soldiers, especially when played against the somewhat cold and resentful Lancelot by Donnelly. Serena Manteghi creates a distant Morgana, who, in all honesty, I wish was more mystical and heart-breaking, something that Manteghi can surely portray with those soft eyes.
Ultimately Morgana is another inspired piece of writing and direction, but for all the laughs and fact that we love the characters, there is something missing here. Agamemnon had the brutal murder of Greek tragedy to end with, whereas Morgana feels a little lost as poor Gawain loses his wits and goes over the top (spoiler) to be shot by a sniper. For me at least it felt somewhat heartless, especially given the connection I formed with this character. The act is not heartless, nor is Wilkes’s writing of it, but somewhere in Compton’s direction there was a beat or two missing to truly capture this moment. Nonetheless, a fine performance from the kings of the Fringe: if ever there was a company worthy of such a title, this is it.
The Bunker Trilogy: Morgana is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 26 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.