AT its peak, cult children’s TV show Knightmare pulled in more than six million viewers – and fans of the series will be taking a special Black Country trip down memory lane next week.
The critically acclaimed stage adaptation of the late 1980s and early 1990s cult classic, Knightmare Live, is coming to Brierley Hill Civic Hall on Saturday, April 15.
Hundreds of fans have already snapped up tickets to go – but what’s it all about?
The concept of the TV show was simple. Teams of four children would attempt to beat all the devilish traps of a virtual reality dungeon. Goblins, giant spiders, and talking walls were just some of the obstacles that needed to be overcome along the way.
One of the four would be the dungeoneer, blinded by wearing the infamous helmet of justice. He or she would be guided by the other three, of course with the help of dungeon master Treguard, played by Hugo Myatt.
The idea to create a live version of the show came nearly 20 years after it finished on our screens.
Paul Flannery, who created the stage show and also plays Treguard said: “Like most of life’s good ideas, I was in a pub when Knightmare Live drew first breath.
“It came about as a result of a simple conversation about what would make a good Edinburgh show. Funhouse, The Crystal Maze and Art Attack were all mooted before Knightmare. After that night, I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head.
“I could see Knightmare working, the mechanics leant themselves to the stage far better than any of the others.
“I'd always been a fan of Knightmare since I was a kid. The thing that sticks out for me and what I think contributed to its success, is that it didn't patronise the contestants. If you made a mistake, you died and that was it, bye bye.
“A lot of other kids shows seemed to give away huge prizes for very little effort. Even if you did win Knightmare – which only eight teams ever did in eight seasons – the prize was a simple trophy.”
Paul and his team took the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time in 2013 – and the response was incredible. The show sold out for the whole run and received a clutch of four and five-star reviews.
It has continued to receive critical acclaim ever since, with annual Edinburgh runs and the show also becoming a regular part of the Underbelly Festival on the Southbank of London.
“During a show at the End of the Road Festival, the organisers had to stop people coming into the forest glade stage area,” Paul said.
“About 1,500 people had decided to miss the end of the Flaming Lips and see our little show. About three-quarters of the way through we were asked to keep it down as the neighbours from a mile away had complained about the noise, basically people laughing.
“I can think of no higher praise.”
The show also became award-winning this year, landing the prestigious ‘Best Live Event’ gong at gaming convention UK LARP.
So what can people expect from the show at Brierley Hill?
“The show's current format is far more improvised than it has been in the past,” Paul said.
“In Brierley Hill you can expect to be asked to name the quest the dungeoneer is going on. We'll be taking quest items from the audience at the start too, these are unusual items people have brought with them to 'help' with the quest.
“Also a few lucky people will get to wear the iconic helmet of Justice and partake in the quest. No telling how long they will last of course, Lord Fear has set many traps!
“Whilst the show is made for people who remember the TV show, it's very enjoyable for those new to the franchise. Lots of the humour is universal and the fantasy genre is fairly mainstream these days.
“We use a lot of familiar broad story telling strokes - heroes, villains, plucky sidekicks. And kids love the massive puppets!”
One of the hardest aspects of Paul’s job was filling the shoes of a legend. He said: “Becoming Treguard was a serious challenge. Hugo Myatt really made the part his in the original so filling his shoes was always going to be difficult.
“Mostly the response I get is very positive. My take on the character is slightly different to Hugo's but it does pay him handsome tribute. I've been lucky enough to meet the man himself and can happily report he is an absolute delight.
“He's done a couple of cameos in some of our larger shows and these have always gone down insanely well. Literally the show stops for a couple of minutes while people cheer and chant. He even came to my birthday party once!”
And the show has its own celebrity following too.
“One of the strangest and most wonderful shows happened last year in Edinburgh,” Paul said.
“We had 90s legend Dave Benson Phillips play on the team of guides and he was amazing!
“We were expecting the show to be fun but a bit different. Turns out Dave is a natural adventurer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of riddles! Who knew?”
Tickets for Knightmare Live cost £15 for adults, or £50 for a family of four to include two adults and two children under the age of 16.
The show is said to be suitable for children, although parents are warned there may be some mild swearing due to the improvised nature of the show.
For further information, or to book, log onto www.bhillcivic.co.uk/whats-on/comedy