'Explosive time travelling': What we said in our review of Kynren as it returns to Auckland Castle
A 1000-strong cast of performers and crew, a 7.5 acre stage and 2,000 years of rich history makes for an explosive cocktail of storytelling as Kynren opens for the summer in spectacular style.
Saturday night saw the return of this epic production which whisks audiences through two centuries of English history at break neck speed, from the heights of Hadrian’s Wall to the trenches of the First World War.
The battlements of Auckland Castle, set amidst the lush greenery of rolling County Durham fields, makes for a majestic backdrop to this feat of story-telling which pieces together the major milestones of English history in a captivating tapestry of live action and special effects.
Stadium-style seating runs parallel to a specially-constructed lake which forms the centre piece of the outdoor stage. All looks serene, but the still waters soon become a portal to the past for young miner’s son Arthur who runs along the water’s surface as he falls down a rabbit hole of history.
Scenes usually only seen in myth and history books spring to life as we journey with him on his time-travelling adventure. The clock is turned far back to ancient times when the very land we’re sat in was occupied by Romans who appear as centurions on horseback, resplendent in embroidered capes and plumes of feathers.
North East history in particular is given prominence as awe-inspiring effects show the development of stained glass, the journey of the Lindisfarne Gospels and St Cuthbert.
We witness too the Viking invasion as a longboat emerges from the hydraulic lake in an incredibly impressive bit of staging.
The pre-recorded dialogue, with narration by the distinctive Northern lilt of Kevin Whately, is simple. But it effectively weaves together these nuggets of history, both real, such as the moment King Harold receives an arrow through the eye in the Battle of Hastings, and mythical with an imagining of King Arthur as he frees Excalibur from the stone.
Scenes are a visual feast, from gaggling geese who are herded along in pastoral passages, to a flaming horseback rider who appears in one of the many excellent equestrian stunts.
Perhaps the greatest storyteller of all, William Shakespeare, shares a segment with Elizabeth 1 as some of his iconic lines, which still influence our language today, are projected on a recreation of Auckland Castle behind the lake in a striking light show.
As the wheels are set in motion for the industrial revolution, the world’s first public railway – another nod to the North East’s role in shaping England – steams across the field stage in a recreation of The Stockton and Darlington Railway.
Soon chimneys shoot from the earth and projections of pit wheels of the coal mines, so intrinsic to the fabric of the region, whir once more.
We seamlessly move towards the history of living memory with a moving recreation of the Christmas truce on the Western Front and a stirring rendition of Winston Churchill’s famous address to the nation.
The show also doffs its cap to pop culture landmarks in time, such as a recreation of the famous Abbey Road Beatles cover and the jubilant lifting of the 1966 World Cup.
After an hour-and-a-half exhilarating ride through history, the pieces of this fascinating jigsaw all come together for a rousing finale of fireworks which is unashamedly patriotic.
*Kynren is running every Saturday night (except August 3) until September 14 at various times at Auckland Castle. Tickets available here.