Looking at theatre and the arts across North East England, the North East Theatre Guide continues to celebrate culture in our region.
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#Kynren from @ElevenArches ..truly the Story of Us. #review #photographs
The celebration of our culture and heritage has become a lot bigger
Flatts Farm, Bishop Auckland DL14 7SF
Saturday 1st July- Saturday 16th September 2017
More than 100,000 vistors experienced the Kynren specatacle last year. Creative director Steve Boyd had the task of making this year's show a new, bigger and even better experience for the audience.
The crowd of friends, locals, family and press filed into the "Tribune", the grandstand seating area that provides a good view of the performance area.
Introductions from the cheery philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer and Steve Boyd confirmed the aims of this year's show were: more people,more animals, more pyro and more choreography.
This is what we got, starting with a boy breaking a window at the home of the retired Bishop with a football. Young Arthur meets the Bishop's manservant, "old" Arthur. This begins a tale of time travel from the time of the Holy Grail until WW2. Young Arthur is warned of the dangers of interfering with history, but does that stop him getting involved with key historical events? Of course not!
The lake was the source of many of the effects and set changes. Fountains, projections, buildings rising and falling, and more appeared from the watery depths.
With, this year, 1500 “archers” (volunteer performers) the cast is definitely larger than last year. New for this year is the battle of Boudicca’s rebels against the Roman army. The equestrianism in the show shone through the whole performance. Horses racing around the site, knights jousting in the Middle Ages, also surprisingly well-trained farm animals all added positively to the experience.
The huge cast were not just standing around, everyone was choreographed, dancing, fighting, playing out the lives of people in our shared history.
A touching reconstruction of the Christmas Day truce in the WW1 trenches was made more magical by the snow falling over the site. The Battle of Hastings had burning arrows fired, there were characters from Shakespeare stories depicted for the pleasure of Queen Elizabeth I, celebrations with dancing, a funeral for lost miners.
This is indeed the story of us. History is not just the famous figures in the history book, but the stories of ordinary folk and their struggles and triumphs. I feel this was reflected in Kynren. The cast, who are too numerous to name, deserve special credit for bringing these stories to life. The technical team created effects and sets that took the production to another level.
Anyone with a passion for Britain’s (and the local area’s) history or just the desire to enjoy a summer night spectacle like no other, you shouldn’t miss this.
The Practical Issues
Now that you’ve read what a wonderful show Kynren is, we need to disclose some notes about the visitor experience.
This is an evening show that on our evening started on a lovely warm June day and we got to our car at 1145 at night. Tip one is wrap up warm as it will be a lot colder at the end of the show. Our son had wished he’d worn his gloves and put another layer on.
We have been lucky: we have seen Kynren twice and enjoyed a “mild” dry night on both occasions. They state the show goes ahead whatever the weather so bring your waterproofs too. Umbrellas are not permitted in the seating area.
Wear comfortable footwear. There is a further 350 metres to walk after the security check in order to get to the seating area. This path is mainly level but you need to factor in this stretch when planning your arrival time but we’ll come back to that.
If you are coming by car then do read the website carefully https://elevenarches.org/your-visit/parking. We were in car park C which was described as “walk 15 to 20 minutes down a countryside path to reach the ticket and security check on the Kynren site. After the first sloped 100 yards, the rest of the path is a gently sloping gradient, but bear in mind the return walk back is up hill!” Indeed it took 50 minutes after the show for us to climb that hill and we were over taking people. We wish that shuttle bus had been an option for us on preview night. The website states that it can only be used if it is pre booked. If, like us, you plan to walk then you might want to take a torch. On our night only the middle third of the route was properly lit and we could have done with more illumination of that final third of the walk through the trees and the field. There are some lights but they are more limited in their effectiveness at this point.
Do study the guidelines about when to arrive: https://elevenarches.org/your-visit. In these times of heightened security risks you will have to go through a security check and you need to factor that into your timing. Talking of security: we will quote the website again “Please note that backpacks, rucksacks, suitcases, picnic hampers, shopping bags or any other bags exceeding 40cm x 30cm x 20cm are not permitted on site. Only handbags and fully transparent plastic bags are allowed, provided their dimensions do not exceed 40cm x 30cm x 20cm.
For a full list of items we cannot allow on site, click here. As there are no Left Luggage facilities in the grounds (except for pushchairs), we reserve the right to confiscate any forbidden item at security check.”
If you fancy buying a souvenir we have one final point to bring to your attention which you’ll need to consider before you leave home: “Please note that Kynren merchandise across the whole site may only be purchased by debit or credit card; we regret that cash payment for your souvenirs will not be accepted.”
So arrive early in warm waterproofs and good footwear, leave the bags in your car and enjoy the show.