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by Tony Layton and Roger Hart



Merlin - a play with music from Stagescripts LtdA most enjoyable and dramatic play with music that traces the life of Merlin from his birth to his death. Those who have tried to research the life of this mystifying magician have found that there's more than one Merlin in the mists of legend, so this play attempts to stitch together those tenuous threads in order to create a character that is both mysterious, and above all, human, with all the frailties this entails. The delightful music includes several numbers that allow for spectacular dance sequences.

The scenes with the mystical characters are interwoven with scenes set in the present, where Street Buskers and a group of young people meet.

Merlin is saved from the Devil soon after his birth and grows up quickly. His mother, the Princess of Dyfed is arrested by Vortigan, but Merlin's wizardry even at a young age allows him to foretell Vortigans future. The prophecy is fulfilled and Merlin and his sister Ganeida move to the court of King Rhydderch, where she becomes Queen and Merlin becomes a trusted friend of the King. He assures Peredur that his sons will be safe in battle, but they die and Merlin retreats to the forest in sackcloth and ashes in penance and shame.

Some years later, King Rhydderch seeks him out and brings him back to the court where Ganeida is secretly meeting gentlemen of the Court behind the King's back. Anxious to be rid of Merlin, she arranges a test of his prophesying powers. She asks Merlin to tell the future of three boys, but she tries to trick him by disguising the same boy three times. He says that each boy will imminently die a different death. Ganeida reveals the truth and ridicules Merlin, at which King Rhydderch banishes him to Avalon, a lonely, distant island.

Avalon, ruled by Uther Pendragon, after years of warring has at last made peace with the Duke of Cornwall. Pendragon has adultrous eyes for Igerna, the Duchess, and persuades Merlin to cast a spell on her such that he may father her a son. Merlin with some foreboding agrees only if Pendragon allows Merlin to bring the child up away from the Court to keep him away from evil. He tells Pendragon that 'the sins of the father will be visited on the sons', but Pendragon is too infatuated to care. The Duke then finds out that Pendragon has been with his wife, but is killed by Pendragon's men. Igerna is naturally upset and blames Pendragon. He wheedles his way into her affections by blaming his 'over zealous' men. A child is born to them, and is named, Arthur.

Merlin brings the boy up and teaches him the ways of magic and nature. A dance sequence depicts 'the sword in the stone' activity, after which, with Arthur as King and Guinevere as his beloved Queen, his father's curse foretold by Merlin begins. Guinevere and Lancelot.

The princess Morgan Le Fay arrives at Camelot. She is the daughter of Pendragon and Igerna, but is unknown to Arthur and Merlin. She schemes to destroy Arthur for tricking her mother and beguiles him. She delivers a son, called Mordred, whom she vows will bring down King Arthur.

Merlin tells him that the only solution to his problem is a great cause, a war perhaps, to focus the minds of Arthur's subjects - the quest for the Holy Grail.

While Lancelot is reporting to the Court that the Grail is still not found, Mordred arrives and insults Guinevere in front of them all. He demands that she be killed for her treasonable adultery. Arthur decides to banish her to save her from this fate, and resigns himself to hunt down Mordred and kill him.

Merlin becomes weary of the political and personal intrigues that plague those in positions of power, and retreats to the forest again. Here he is visited in his sleep by Demons who further complicate his life by introducing him to love, even though he is not a young man. He sees Nimu, a lovely young girl, in a dream and is captivated by her when they get to meet. She, being under the Demons power believes he is a young man, returns his love and they stay together for many years. When the magic wears off, he becomes an old man again and she leaves him. Desperate to rekindle the love he has lost, Merlin searches her out and begs her to return with him. She refuses, ties him up and leaves him to die alone. Did he die like this, or in some other way - did he ever live? Legends are sometimes annoyingly imprecise, perhaps that is their charm.

'Merlin' was first performed in Carmarthen (Wales) which is reputed to be Merlin's birthplace. This went on a tour of theatres in West Wales in 2002 with the support of the UK Arts Council. It is a piece ideally suited for performance by large groups (from senior schools and colleges to adult groups). It could also be adapted to be performed by a small ensemble who would enjoy the challenge of multi-role playing techniques.


Principals Supporting Cast Dancers
  Merlin   King Vortigan   Igerna/Handmaidens
  1st Busker   Lady-In-Waiting   Nimu
  2nd Busker   Druid   Uther Pendragon
  Dave   Mordred   Princess Of Dyfed
  Tommy   Princess Of Dyfed   A Priest
  Kylie   Lancelot   Two Dragons
  Young Arthur   Young Merlin   Three Sprites
  King Arthur   Three Sprites   Three Demons
  Nimu   Three Demons   Lady Of The Lake
  King Rhydderch   Duke Gorlais  
  Queen Ganeida   King Peredur Singing Parts
  Uther Pendragon   Court Attendant   The Buskers
    King Gwennolous   Female Soloist
    Young Boy   Four 'Grail' Knights
    Courtier   Mixed Chorus
    Queen Guinevere  
    Duchess Igerna  
    Two Figures  
   Morgan La Fay  


  1) Evocation Solo Singer and Dance Group
  2) A Very Strange Man The Buskers
  3) Dance Of The Demons Dance Group
  4) Dance Of The Dragons Dance Group
  5) Merlin's Prophecies The Buskers
  6) Merlin's Magical Creatures Young Merlin And Dance Group
  7) King Rhydderch's Court Dance Large Dance Group
  8) The Battle Of Lark Male Dance Group
  9) The Wild Man Of Calidon The Buskers
 10) Road To Avalon Mixed Chorus
~~ Interval ~~
11) Procession In Avalon Full Chorus
12) Dance Of The Masks Dance Group
13) Merlin's Lesson The Buskers
14) The Dance Of Excalibur Large Dance Group
15) The Round Table The Buskers
16) On The Trail Of The Grail Four Soloists (performing a Comedy Dance)
17) Dance Of The Forest Dance Group
18) Finale Full Cast


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