What's on: Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: PARK LIFE: John Cockerill stars as King Arthur in The Dukes production of Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur in Williamson Park, Lancaster PARK LIFE: John Cockerill stars as King Arthur in The Dukes production of Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur in Williamson Park, Lancaster

MEDIEVAL magic and myth is set to cast a spell over Lancaster from July 8 to August 13 as The Dukes celebrates its 25th anniversary of outdoor spectaculars.

Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur is a new play specially commissioned by the Lancaster theatre to mark a quarter of a century of its Williamson Park outside theatre productions, the UK’s largest - in audience terms for ‘walkabout’ theatre, apparently - attracting 460,000 people down the years.

This year’s show was sent into a spin when the actor playing Merlin, Grange-over-Sands thespian, Patrick Bridgman, tripped up during a break in rehearsals and snapped one of the metatarsal bones in his foot.

Kieran Buckeridge - well known for his appearances at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake - has stepped in and taken over.

Patrick is expected to be in plaster for the next three weeks.

He explained: “I feel a bit silly because it’s not an injury I incurred while actually rehearsing but I’m very glad that Kieran has replaced me as I admire his work and know he will be very good at playing Merlin.”

The Dukes has established a national reputation for producing outstanding outdoor theatre, putting on 36 plays in Williamson Park.

The first outdoor promenade production in 1987 was A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Among the cast was award-winning actor Andy Serkis, who went on to star as Gollum in The Lord of the Ring and Ian Dury in 2010’s Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll.

Morecambe’s Cherylee Houston (Izzy Armstrong in Coronation Street) and Lancaster’s Andy Wear who played Alun Morris in several series of television’s The Royal have also appeared in Dukes outdoor shows.

Dukes director Joe Sumsion said he remembered when open-air theatre was something you heard about from the continent but there was very little of it in this country.

He added: “The Dukes championed a new approach, creating popular site specific walkabout productions which have become fantastically successful.

“Big, epic stories work particularly well outdoors. And this year’s audiences will experience magic, transformation and adventure.”

The play has been written by Kevin Dyer, winner of the 2010 Writers Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Play for Children and Young People and associate artist of The Dukes.

Tales of enchantment, terrifying quests, a beautiful sorceress and a fearsome dragon mix fantasy and reality in a story set in the Dark Ages.

* Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur is at Williamson Park, Lancaster from July 8 to August 13. Box office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org

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