Saturday 27 November 2010

Theatre Review: Medieval Times

This dinner show recreates, according to the publicity, an 11th century Spain with knights, damsels, ladies and lords. It currently has theatres in various locations in North America: such as Orlando, Florida, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and 6 other locations across the United States. Toronto is the only location in Canada.

The former Arts and Crafts Building of Exhibition Place just beside the Dufferin Gate houses the Canadian Medieval Times and is referred to as the Toronto Castle. I purchased my ticket online and printed my ticket. I took the subway to Dufferin station then took bus 29 south to the Dufferin Gate. I took the bus 29 short run which stops just outside the Dufferin gate but it's only a three minute walk to the building.

Upon arriving, I handed in my ticket and was given a coloured card indicating the number of my table; the colour was the colour of the knight I was supposed to root for. I received a paper crown and was escorted to the waiting area. This is a series of shops with items relating to the show and a bar serving the usual and some extraordinary concoctions plus a little stage with a throne. It turns out that during our wait, the king and Sir Richard come out to celebrate birthdays, knight some young men and welcome ladies into the realm.

As well, there are a number of windows into the horse stalls and a display of live falcons. The entire entrance hall is dressed up with the pageantry one would expect from an era of knights. While I wasn't 100% certain of what to expect, I had the idea this affair was to be more oriented to kids but I did notice a number of groups which consisted of only adults.

Fifteen minutes before show time, we all file in and take our places. The arena which reminded me of a hockey arena has the main part set up with a dirt base. The surrounding seating is made up of long tables with chairs; each place setting has a pewter plate and bowl. According to the web site's FAQ, we are going to be eating our dinner with our hands, a supposed nod to historical accuracy. Don't worry though; the meal ended with us all being treated to a medieval moist towelette to clean ourselves up.

Sir Richard is something of the narrator of the show and he sets up the story to the show which involves some treachery between 2 kingdoms; all of which is designed to get the audience cheering and booing for the good guys and the bad guys. The crowd had been seated into 6 areas identified by colours and each section had its corresponding knight to root for. As their motto states: chivalry, rivalry, revelry.

The dinner was served in stages as the show unfolds in front of us in the arena and was not bad. The bill of fare consisted of tomato bisque and garlic bread which was very good; followed by chicken, ribs and half an herb basted potato and finished with an apple pastry. Alcoholic drinks are for sale but the meal comes with a choice of water or pop and ends with coffee and tea.

By the way, this meal is definitely not vegetarian. Yes, vegetarian meals are available on request but the standard fare has enough meat in it to sink a ship. The chicken is half a small chicken. When they plopped that on my plate then came around with the ribs I was thinking that this is a meat lover's delight; I don't usually scarf down that much of the flesh. I was chuckling about making a connection between the Medieval Times meal and medieval England. A few years ago, my wife and I visited Hampton Court in England where a guide gave us a little history lesson about King Henry VIII: he apparently ate two to three pounds (1 to 1.5 kg) of meat each day. Good lord but that is a lot of meat and that's what I was feeling like scarfing down ribs on top of half a chicken!

The show inspired the audience to cheer their knight on to victory and was very much in good fun. I did find the choreographed fighting with swords and such to be interesting. Not too dangerous but dangerous enough to give us the idea of an actual fight. When two knights would strike at each other and the blades of their swords hit together, you would see sparks flying.

There were even 3 rounds of jousting. I know the lance is made to easily break apart but I did wonder if they have had any accidents. It did strike me that it would be easy to miscalculate one's aim or have a lance which didn't break properly and hurt somebody. Yes, it's a show but it's not one hundred percent without hazard.

Besides the fighting, the show had some horses on display doing some tricks and one segment had a falcon flying around the arena as a demonstration of hunting. I found it interesting counting the number of people involved in this production. At one point, there were 9 horses and 30 people on the floor. This doesn't take into account everybody else providing support. According to the FAQ, the arena can seat 1,400 people!

As I was listening to the patter of Sir Richard, I was thinking about his enthusiasm in trying to get us all on board and excited about the entertainment. I was at the 5pm show and I knew there was going to be another show at 7:30pm that night and the group of them would do this whole thing all over again. Heck, the group of them were doing this over and over again, day after day. That's a lot of the same thing repeated that one has to remain upbeat about. Hats off to the group of them for their professionalism.

Final Assessment
This strikes me as something you would take your kids to see but I'm not sure I would recommend it to adults; it would very much depend on your own taste; I went by myself. With taxes, my ticket cost $75 and yes, that does include the show and a meal. Maybe if I was on vacation in Orlando or Myrtle Beach it might be worth going out as a group to see this. [sigh] When you have kids, you have an excuse to see all sorts of things that as an adult you wouldn't normally consider. My wife and I took the kids to Williamsburg, Virginia a number of times for vacation and each time involved going to Busch Gardens, a fabulous amusement park. But would I go there without kids? I'm not sure it would be as much fun. Medieval Times is worth a look but it probably would have been a blast if I had taken some kids.

Check out their web site for further information or call them at... I'm not kidding...

1-866-WE-JOUST (1-866-935-6878)


official web site for Toronto

Purchase tickets for Toronto
From until March, the winter season, shows seem to run Thursday to Sunday.


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