Click on the arrow on the photo at right for a video excerpt from a performance of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with medieval music trio PanHarmonium.
Superheroes weren’t invented in the 21st century ... they’ve been around for hundreds of years! This thoroughly modern presentation of the classic Arthurian legend "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" has all the elements of a modern-day adventure story: Danger! Seduction! Survival! Trickery! Good Guys vs. Bad Guys!
The updated, dramatic telling of this swashbuckling story reveals the comedy, passion, and relevance of the story to 21st century listeners, and is a reminder of why this poetic and darkly funny legend has been called "the jewel of English medieval literature." Come see what really went on inside those drafty castle walls — and what modern-day heroes can learn about courage from tough guys of long ago!
Actress and story performer Dolores Hydock creates a swirl of characters to tell the tale, while the musical trio PanHarmonium weaves a musical setting for the story with medieval music played on hurdy-gurdy, harp, crumhorn, and other authentic reproductions of the strange and curious instruments of medieval times. One reviewer called this presentation "a charming world of energized fantasy that I was sorry to have to leave."
This original adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has been performed at the San Francisco Early Music Society's Medieval / Renaissance Workshop in Sonoma, California, at DePauw University's Prindle Institute for Ethics, and for performing arts series, theatres, and a variety of middle-school, high-school, and university audiences. Included in English Literature studies in many high schools, this 700-year-old story is impressively relevant to current times, with its themes of deciphering truth from illusion, resisting the temptations and seductions that threaten to overpower good intentions, and finding the inner courage to be true to yourself.
Click on the arrow on the photo at right for a video excerpt showing the PanHarmonium musicians leading the audience at Winter Storyfest in Atlanta, Georgia, in a sing-along in Middle English!
Dragon Slain at Birmingham Festival Theatre The Southsider Community Paper Six hundred years ago, a "passionately moral and wickedly comic"* poem was penned that still packs theaters with spellbound listeners. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as rendered by storyteller/actress Dolores Hydock and the early music group PanHarmonium, was such a smash that the Birmingham Festival Theatre held the show over for an extra, unpublicized matinee. The matinee crowd itself was close to a full house, a great enthusiasm to see for one of the oldest art forms of all: telling a story. Of course, the live performance of period music could not have been more appropriate, better played or seamlessly integrated into Hydock's web of spoken word.
The PanHarmonium medieval music trio started the show with several 13th and 14th century tunes, taking time to point out interesting quirks or stories about a variety of fascinating instruments. Susan Marchant revealed the recorder (does everybody remember playing little plastic recorders in middle school?) is called such because it was used to train song birds, in essence, to "record" melodies into their repertoire. David Cantrell showed everyone how to work the bellows of a portative organ, and Gilbert Ritchie extolled the raucous virtues of the best named instrument -- the crumhorn.
After the songs, including a round starring guest vocalists and including the audience, Dolores Hydock took over the stage with a strong, versatile presence. An attractive, petite woman, she would sculpt the big air around her with words, physical movements, and projection into the ferocious seven foot green monster. Or, in an instant, draw all the space into the form of a frightened boy facing mortality. Her ingenious use of a single prop, a gauzy green silk scarf, was an example of the best of minimalism, when it surprises the imagination. Together with incidental music and even sound effects from PanHarmonium, Hydock created a charming world of energized and relevant fantasy that one was sorry to have to leave.
*from the introduction to Burton Raffel's translation, one of several used in compiling Hydock's version.
The review at right appeared in TheSouthsider community paper after a held-over performance of Sir Gawain at the Birmingham Festival Theatre.