Sunday, May 29, 2005

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

After sleeping in late (time zones differences as much as fatigue), Friday was spent equally divided between prepping for the conference and strolling through Eaton center. The big event of the day, however, was dinner at Medieval Times. We had, of course, signed up for Tigana's benefit, though we hoped Kasia would be sufficiently entertained by the horses charging past her table to keep her settled through supper. But I must say that Mary and I enjoyed the experience immensely ourselves, and would highly recommend it to others.

Kasia pets her first falcon...

The first thing to strike me was the mere scale of the place. The facility was huge, completely out of proportion to any ordinary dinner theater, with a correspondingly large staff. When we had first arrived and I had discovered what Mary had paid for the tickets, I confess that I had thought it a bit pricy, but as I counted the number of staff and later the number of performers (though some overlap there!) I quickly reversed myself and wondered how they could possibly afford to mount such a spectacle. In my view, we received more than our money’s worth.

One of the Knights, the one our section was to cheer for, holds up a rose he has won in previous competition, prior to tossing it out into the audience. Note the scale of the theater.

The second thing to strike me was that it was that this wasn't TV. These actors were actually performing the stunts I was watching. No tricky camera angles, no second takes, these guys were actually shooting the arrows and lancing the hoops while galloping their horses through various maneuvers. The fight scenes were of course carefully (apparently convincingly for Tigana and Kasia) choreographed, but even here it was all live action: Knights were routinely ‘knocked’ from their horses to crash on the ground, and I observed one ‘knight’ falling backwards onto a four inch stake left on the field from a previous scene -- that had to hurt!

Tigana holds the rose which the knight had given to her Pretty good trip for us! But I'm afraid Tigana is coming to expect this sort of thing when she goes to plays!

The play itself was a bit predictable, but kept Tigana on the edge of her seat, and the lavish production and general spectacle kept Mary, Kasia and I entertained. And, it has to be said, the food was unexpectedly wonderful. One assumes rubber chicken at any play or conference, but the meal was excellent. They even provided a vegetarian meal for Tigana (though that was admittedly less authentically Medieval.) No knives or forks to clean, pewter dinnerware, the whole bit.

I was interested to note that there was also a genuine attempt to educate the audience, with "entertainments" at the "feast" that explained the purpose of various horse maneuvers, armour, and a very impressive display of falconing (as falcon dives over your head, only inches away.)

All in all, a great evening's entertainment.

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