Blondel is a musical I’d never previously heard of, but after the Union Theatre announced their production of it recently, the more I heard about it, the more interested I was. Written by Tim Rice, Tom Williams and Stephen Oliver, it’s the story of a musician at the court of King Richard the Lionheart. Richard famously goes off to the crusades, taking with him Blondel’s sweetheart, Fiona, leaving the balladeer to deal with the usurping Prince John. Eventually Blondel decides to leave England in search of both Richard and Fiona, not knowing that he is being pursued by a deadly assassin (Michael Burgen).
The best thing about the show is undoubtedly the quartet of singing monks (David Fearn, Ryan Hall, Oliver Marshall and Calum Melville) – I would be happy to watch a show featuring just them. I also loved JamesThackeray’s camp Prince John – his anthem ‘No Rhyme for Richard’ is one of the highlights of the show, as is the Assassin’s hilarious introductory number. Neil Moors is suitably regal as King Richard, while Jessie May’s Fiona is strong-willed and determined. Connor Arnold does a great job as Blondel himself, with charm and a great voice, but it doesn’t help that the character himself is a bit bland and he basically has one song, which gets a bit repetitive after a while.
The whole thing rather put me in mind of the 80s and 90s BBC classic Maid Marian and Her Merry Men. In fact, Robin Hood does make an appearance in this story, though he’s very much a peripheral character. The show has been updated somewhat, with bits of social commentary and nods to other musicals, and I don’t think you’d be able to get a better production of it anywhere. Blondel has its flaws, but it’s also great fun.