This Friday, I visited the Rondo theatre in Bath along with a very good friend of mine and saw the Dark Age Deeds of the Celtic Saints; a two hour performance by Anthony Nanson and David Metcalfe. The evening consisted of a mixture of storytelling and singing, with Anthony doing the story telling, and David doing the singing.
The first half of the evening was, in my opinion, probably the better half, since it contained a really fantastic tale of monks sailing across the ocean which I’d never heard before. The story alone was amazing, but when combined with Anthony’s superb storytelling skills, it became a real standout performance. There were even a couple of moments of slight humour in these tales and, intentional or not, they added to my overall enjoyment. First, there was a scene when three late coming monks run up to the departing boat, and the leader is unsure of them because one of them looks “shifty”, another looks “downright crazy” but the third looks “easy going” which seems to be an odd reason to distrust somebody, I guess this is an example of the changes between dark age and modern day values! Second, at one point a huge crystalline pillar raises out of the ocean and points towards the sky, “What’s that?” one of them asks, and the reply was “That is a thing!… made by God”, the pause giving it good comedic value! Even if unintentional, I hardly consider this a bad thing.
All of the stories were accompanied by David playing atmospheric music on his drum or guitar. Sometimes this musical addition seemed to compliment a scene perfectly, but at others it didn’t add much more than an extra sound to hear. David, on the whole, did not seem to have as much to do as Anthony, while he did sing all of the songs; the storytelling took up much more of the time. David did also do some of the story telling, but unfortunately for him, he tended only to read the less interesting things, such as the links between stories. But, despite seemingly being a little underused, when David did sing, he gave only excellent performances. He seemed to be very well suited to singing folk music.
The second half, as I said above, did not seem quite as enjoyable as the first, though it was by no means bad. My favourite story from this half was one which featured a Druid, a Christian and the Loch Ness Monster. This story was especially good, I thought, because while all of the others were very Christianity oriented, this one gave a lot of respect to the Druid perspective. I don’t see that there’s anything at all wrong with Christianity being the main orientation of the stories, but it’s nice to see other viewpoints. The ending was also particularly very good, as it linked these Dark Age adventures to the present day and really reinforced the interconnected nature of things (which I really like).
On the whole, an excellent show, performed by two people who were clearly very enthusiastic about their work. Should the show be done again, I heartily suggest you go and see it!