Kate Donnachie stars as Merlin in Arthur/Merlin, part of Iris Theatre’s 2021 Summer Festival.
Directed by Paul-Ryan Carberry, the cast also features Michael Elcock, Lloyd Gorman and Gina Jamieson.
Writer Reuben Johnson’s new re-imagining of this classic tale will take place outdoors in the beautiful gardens of the Actor’s Church and features spoken word, original songs and is led by a cast of actor-musicians. Arthur/Merlin will run from 4 August – 22 August. Tickets are on sale here.
You’re playing Merlin in Arthur/Merlin at Iris Theatre’s Summer Festival, what can you tell us about the show?
The show is a really fun family friendly adventure through the gardens of St Paul’s Actors Church, Iris Theatre’s home. It follows Arthur, a young boy who runs away from home and ends up on a huge quest guided by Merlin, a wizard who’s magic comes from her words. In this case, the show’s writer, Reuben Johnson, a brilliant spoken word artist has created some incredible lyrics for me to perform as Merlin! There’s original music, songs, comedy and also some really heartfelt moments of connection – I think after the year we’ve had, it’s such a heartlifting, inviting, fun way to get back into theatre! The rehearsals have definitely been that for me already!
How does it feel to be playing such a legendary character, and how are you putting your own spin on Merlin?
There’s a bit of pressure playing a character so many people have such a strong vision of, but at the same time, this Merlin is so different to anything I’ve seen before, it’s quite freeing, we’re finding so many different sides to her as we go through rehearsals. This is the first female version of Merlin I’ve seen which is exciting and the way Reuben has written her, really helps bring out an independent, powerful woman completely in control of her power for me. She’s also a really fun character, I’m really enjoying finding those moments when she is quick-witted and uses her age and wisdom to her advantage.
What was it about Reuben Johnson’s new re-imagining of this classic tale that appealed to you the most?
I love the modern take on this version. I feel like a lot of these characters are very familiar to me and a modern audience – I definitely know a couple of Merlin type people (and they are great people!) Merlin particularly for me becomes a timeless character in this version a bit like Dr Who which I’m all for! The use of spoken word and the original music is a brilliant blend of the modern world and the more traditional folk tales of Arthur and Merlin. I’ve written rap and folk songs before, so it couldn’t be more up my street!
As a Beatboxer, what are you enjoying most about being part of a production that features spoken word and original songs?
What I love about the work I do as a beatboxer is the ensemble! I’ve been working with BAC Beatbox Acadamy for about 8 years and got to be a part of shows creating the music and the best bit is always getting to work with really great, collaborative, talented people which is definitely true with the Arthur/Merlin team.
The mood shifts in a room when you introduce lyrics, music or singing and people are instantly more engaged and supportive. I love working with the spoken word and folk music (played live at times by Gina [Jamieson] and Lloyd [Gorman]); I think it adds a different dimension to the storytelling and I think it’ll engage the audience into the story even more!
How have rehearsals been going, have you had a favourite moment so far?
Rehearsals have been brilliant! It’s SO good to be back in a room creating something new.
I was a bit nervous before we started; speaking to a few people about heading back into ‘normal’ life situations, they’ve said as well that it feels strange. But as soon as I walked in and met everyone, I instantly felt so comfortable and by the end of the first day I was just smiling so much!
It’s so hard to pick a favorite moment, I’ve caught myself watching the rehearsals and the cast and creative team are just so exciting to watch work! If I was to pick one, I think for me the first read through was brilliant, hearing the show outloud for the first time, it felt like the start of something really exciting.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Arthur/Merlin?
Do it! It’s the kind of feel-good show I would love to see right now; it’s got a quest, a word-wielding-wizard, that original music and it’s in a garden! Even if that’s not your cup of tea, there’s a great bar…