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Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table

Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table - Thomas Malory, Keith Baines, Robert Graves

bookshelves: britain-england, adventure, classic, amusing, fraudio, historical-fiction, medieval5c-16c, mythology, play-dramatisation, time-slip

Read in September, 2009


** spoiler alert **

Woman's Hour Drama: The Quest 24-08-2009 - 28-08-2009

A surreal, humorous and moving allegorical retelling of Thomas Mallory's Morte d'Arthur, starring Mark Gatiss as Merlin and Julian Rhind-Tutt as Arthur.

The blurb - In a 15th-century Britain that resembles the Favellas of Rio, Arthur is Merlin's protégé; but the magician despairs – human frailty has defeated Utopia. Arthur's impregnation of his half sister Morgana haunts Camelot in the person of Mordred, who is his mother's lover and scourge to his father. The court of the "Round Table" is decadent. Arthur invents the "Grail Quest" to bring purpose to his knights and rebuild his reputation in a tortured land. The knights emerge into a world that hates them. Some are hacked or stoned to death.

Seeking Glastonbury, Galahad stumbles over the Grail while hiding behind the Spar convenience store in Wells. He and the Grail are taken up to an antiseptic Heaven in an elevator, 15 miles high. Mordred raises an army to defeat his brother/father and delivers Arthur's death blow. The dying Arthur raises Excalibur to throw it into Deptford Creek, but the sword is snatched from his grip by a track-suited teenager. The expiring king, his vision clouding, sees Merlin kicked to death by a gang.


Rooted in Mallory's 14th-century epic, the narrative focuses on the "Grail Quest" and the dubious personal and state politics that surround it.

From The Radio Times :

It is an emotional scene. The life of the mortally wounded King Arthur (Julian Rhind-Tutt) slowly ebbs away. Beside his frail body sits the great wizard Merlin (Mark Gatiss), who offers him a vision of the future. He can see Steve Buscemi. He is playing a character called Mr Shhh, the aptly named assassin in the 1995 film Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. Confused? This might be 15th-century Britain as we've never encountered it before but the surrealism of the drama is remarkably effective. Arthur may try and throw Excalibur into Deptford Creek, only to have it snatched from his grip by a track-suited teenager, but writer Jonathan Holloway has not lost a single iota of the magic and poignancy of Thomas Malory's tale.

-- Jane Anderson

Arthur ................................... Julian Rhind-Tutt
Merlin ......................................... Mark Gatiss
Percival/Welsh King ........................... Mark Meadows
Morgan Le Fay/Agravain ........................ Jasmine Hyde
Lancelot .................................... Stephen Noonan
Leodegrance/Galahad ........................... Paul Mundell
Guinevere .................................. Eleanor Tremain
Lot/Baron the First/Sir Kay .................. David Collins
Mordred/Teenager ............................ Samuel Barnett

The Quest is adapted by Jonathan Holloway.
Producer Tim Dee