Arthurian and Grail Plays


Written by Sebastian Baczkiewicz (plays 1-3) and Steve May (4-6), the six plays tell the tale of Arthur, a powerful tribal leader who brings political stability to 5th century Britain but  fails to deliver a golden age. The action takes place in Britain between 493 AD and 515 AD. BBC Radio 4 produced the plays for airing Oct-Nov 2004. Music by Zbigniew Preisner, with additional music by Lucinda Mason Brown. Produced and Directed by Jeremy Mortimer and Gordon House.

Arthur Ben Whishaw
Morgan Jane Lapotaire
Young Morgan Eve Best
Merlin Ian McDiarmid
Ector James Laurenson
Keir Nicholas Boulton
Gaura Pam Ferris
Bryce Christian Rodska
Kerwyn  Stephen Hogan
Aidan Phillip Joseph
Rhyannon Emily Wachter
Young Gwenfar Alice Ford
Bedvere Shaun Dooley
Lot Clive Russell
Soldiers Damian Lynch, Robert Hastie and Jason Chan

Play one 'The Sword of the King'

A seventeen year old Arthur has grown up as Arran, stable boy to Ector of Cantia. He is visited by Merlin and begins to have waking dreams about a moment in his early childhood when he was taken from his mother by Merlin and given to Sir Ector. Arthur comes to London. Sir Ector is killed. Rival warlords Bryce and Kerwyn each put themselves forward to take the sword from the stone and claim kingship and fail. Arthur steps forward, pulls the sword and is proclaimed king.

The action of the play lasts over two days in January 493 AD.

Play two 'The Black Dog' : The tribal leaders refuse to acknowledge Arthur king. Arthur is determined to impose law and effectively starts a civil war. Arthur falls in love with Rhyannon, the young wife of King Lot of the Orkneys. He sleeps with Rhyannon, who becomes pregnant. Keir challenges Arthur, and the sword of kingship shatters in his hand. In penance, Arthur takes Keir to search for the Black Dog. Arthur meets Gwenfar, the daughter of Leodegrance of Caerleon.

The action of the play covers two months from March - May 493 AD.

Play three 'The Lake' : Through a message delivered by Gwenfar, Merlin directs Arthur to the sacred grove, and he receives 'Excalibur' from the Lady of the Lake. It is revealed that Rhyannon is in fact Margawse, Arthur's half-sister. Rhyannon gives birth to Mordred and kills herself. Morgan vows to protect her nephew, and to bring him up safe from Merlin's clutches.

The action of the play covers the last weeks of 493 and the first weeks of 494 AD.

Play four ' The Moon Eats the Sun': Seven years have passed. For the last five years, Arthur has ruled with his Queen, Gwenfar, at his side. There is stability in the kingdom, and Camlot is established by the sacred lake. But Keir has broken his agreement with Arthur and has led a raiding party into Christian King Pellyn's lands across the Humber. Keir has killed his bishop and stolen his neice, Maura. Maura's brother, Lanslot, arrives at Camlot demanding combat with Keir. Merlin says that war with Pellyn is inevitable, but Arthur is determined to try and broker peace. He meets Pellyn and Elaine, Pellyn's daughter, who tells him that she is pregnant by Lanslot. Arthur manages to achieve a peace; but back at Camlot, Maura has been sacrificed.

The action of the play takes place in March 501 AD.

Play five 'The Grail' : Fourteen years have passed, and two young men are making their way to Camlot: Mordred, now twenty-one, and the 15 year old Galhot, son of Lanslot and Elaine. They see Lanslot and Gwenfar bathing in the river together, and when they reach Camlot, Mordred challenges Lanslot to combat. Mordred begins to gain more influence at Arthur's court, and Lanslot learns that Galhot is his son, Arthur sends Galhot on a quest to find the Holy Grail. The search for the grail comes to a climax just as Arthur is brought by Mordred to witness Gwenfar and Lanslot's betrayal.

The action of the play takes place in 515 AD.

Play six 'The Last Battle' : Gwenfar and Lanslot have been sentenced to death for adultery and treason. Merlin's vision of Camlot is fading fast. The land around the sacred lake is barren and the lake itself is polluted. The only answer to Camlot's problems appears to be war against the Saxons who have settled on the East Coast. Arthur, Gawain and his knights set out to fight the Saxons. The battle is won, but while he is away, Mordred declares himself King. The two forces meet for the Last Battle. Lanslot arrives, but too late to save Arthur.

The action of the play is continuous from Play 5.


Arthur (Arran)
Son of Uther and Yvaine
As Arran, he was a country stable-boy, a loner who looked after Lord Ector's horses, but he is suddenly thrown into the daunting world of war and politics, and is renamed Arthur. Initially reluctant to accept the role of king, he is briefly intoxicated by the power it gives him. He alternates between boyish hesitation and kingly authority and occasional arrogance. When we first meet him, he has a Kentish accent.

Lord High Druid, and wise old wizard who acts as chief adviser and confidante to Arthur. He seems to have Arthur's best interests at heart, but his motivations and methods will be called into question. He has a dark side, and is called 'tricky' by narrator Morgan.

Morgan (Narrator)
Eldest daughter of Vortigern and Yvaine
She is Arthur's older half-sister, and this old incarnation of herself provides a commentary on the events which unfold. She seems to care for Arthur's welfare, but she is increasingly at odds with Merlin's plans for Arthur, and it is unclear where her loyalties lie. The young Morgan helps Arthur, her baby brother, at first. The older Morgan is telling her story to Christian monks some years after the actual events.

Rhyannon (Margawse)
Youngest daughter of Vortigern and Yvaine
Lot's beautiful young wife. She falls in love with Arthur. Brought up from the age of one in the Orkneys, she has a Scottish accent.

Lord Ector's loyal cook and Arthur's only real friend in his early life. She obviously cares for Arthur's welfare and gives him a sort of rough-love.

Lord with a country estate who took Arthur in as a child and let him work as his stable-boy.

Ector's son, he's about the same age as Arthur. He ages from 20 to 40 over the course of the plays.

Aggressive warlord who refuses to accept Arthur as King when Arthur is the only man able to pull the sword from the stone. He vows to fight to the death for the title himself.

Another aggressive warlord who wants the title of king. He attacks Arthur when he draws the sword.

Loyal servant and right-hand man to King Arthur. He will do anything that the King tells him to do. Bedvere ages from 20 to 40 over the course of the plays.

A lord of Arthur's court, friendly with Keir. Ages from mid-20s to late 30s.

Old warlord from Orkney who is married to the young and beautiful Rhyannon. He fights on Arthur's side but is initially very skeptical of the boy-king's abilities.

Brother to King Leodegrance, and uncle to Gwenfar.

Leodegrance and Aidan
Brothers. Leodegrance is King of Caerleon, and father of Gwenfar.

Princess of Caerleon. Twelve-year-old daughter to King Leodegrance, quite precocious and already it's suggested that she could be future wife to Arthur. When we re-meet her she is the spirited and feisty Queen.

Fifteen-years-old, Lanslot's sister. She is captured by Keir and taken to Camlot as a battle-prize. Keir has murdered her father - King Pellyn's bishop. She has a childish obsession with the new faith - Christianity - and calls herself a Bride of Christ. 

Maura's brother, he's 20 years old when he appears at Camlot. Makes a lot of his vow of chastity (but see Elaine below). He's come to avenge the murder of his father and had once believed Camlot to be a perfect kingdom, but is disappointed with what he finds.

King Pellyn
Father to Elaine and uncle to Maura and Lanslot.

Pellyn's daughter. She's in love with Lanslot, and they've slept together (after Lanslot renounced physical love and made vow of chastity).

Product of the incestuous union between Rhyannon and Arthur, he is 21 years old when he comes to Camlot and has been raised by his doting Aunt Morgan. He is sly and, although physically weak, uses his cunning to worm his way into. He also has a squint. A bad apple. Brought up in Scotland.

The son of Elaine and Lanslot. He is 15 years old and a Christian. He harbours a deep resentment against his father for deserting his mother Elaine and joining the heathen 'snake lovers'. He is on a quest to find Lanslot to kill him in order to purify the corrupt Camlot.

A Saxon warlord from the East. He makes an alliance with Mordred against Arthur. An opportunist. Son of Ossa who was killed by Arthur. He's in his late 20s.

The goddess who Merlin conjures from the lake.

Information for this article taken directly from the BBC Radio pages for the play.