“It’s hard to make heavy stuff work at the Fringe,” I wrote in my positive review of Underneath the Lintel. Phillip Andrew Bennett Low’s Camelot is Crumbling is even heavier than Lintel, and on balance it works somewhat less well—but with a show this ambitious, as Samuel Johnson said about a woman’s preaching, “you are surprised to find it done at all.” (Note: Low contributes to the Daily Planet as a blogger.)
The one-man show (with contributions via audio recording by Charlie Bethel) is an adaptation of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, a deep delving into the dark psyches of two knights whose spiritual armor has been somewhat tarnished. You may want to brush up on your Arthurian lore—or at least read the program—before the show starts, or, like me, you may be a little lost at first. Wait, Mordred was Arthur’s son? Lancelot hooked up with someone besides Guinevere? That wasn’t in the Richard Gere movie.
Low’s greatest achievement with this show, in which he alternates between the characters of Lancelot and Mordred, is the creation of a dank, mossy mood. By the end of the show, you may be surprised to put you hand on the theater wall and not feel cold stone and dead vines. Low’s intense monologues, playing tricks with time and place, are thick with layers of meaning; this is a show that would reward multiple viewings.
That very thickness, though, makes it a long haul: Low demands your full attention and concentration, and if you haven’t taken your Ritalin, he may lose you. But if you’re looking for an intelligent, ambitious Fringe show to really sink your teeth into, Camelot is Crumbling will sate your appetite.