An Open Access Review Journal Encouraging Critical Engagement with the Continuing Process of Inventing the Middle Ages

August 13, 2020

Barber: The Daemons

Matt Barber, The Daemons, The Black Archive, 26. Edinburgh: Obverse Books, 2018.

Reviewed by Stephen Basdeo (

Doctor Who scarcely needs any introduction. He is the person with two hearts who flies around space and time in a battered old police box that is bigger on the inside than on the outside, and the subject of one of the most popular sci-fi television series in the UK and USA with a cult following. Obverse Books have in the last couple of years commissioned brief book length examinations of each Doctor Who story, and it was a pleasure to read a companion to one of my favourite serials, titled The Daemons (which aired in May–June 1971), written by Matt Barber.

Perhaps, however, ‘companion’ is the wrong word. Yes, at the beginning of the book there are the usual production notes. We know who the director and producers of the serial were, who were the minor uncredited actors, but the really special thing about this book is that the main part of it is actually an analysis of the story itself. To my knowledge, Obverse’s series of books represent the first attempt to analyse the narratives of this popular five part Doctor Who story which, so Barber points out, garnered an average of nearly 9 million viewers per episode and remains among the top 20 ‘greatest ever’ Doctor Who stories according to fans.

Most Doctor Who stories from the 1960s and 1970s, when all is said, were produced on the cheap and suffered routinely from bad acting. The outer space stories of the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton era featured flimsy sets and were melodramatic. It was only with John Pertwee’s Doctor era, with the Doctor deprived of the TARDIS by the Time Lords and exiled to earth, that the show’s writers began producing more thoughtful stories. Inferno was one highlight of the Hartnell era and The Daemons was another. The latter was particularly innovative because, as Barber points out, it is less sci-fi and more a gothic folk horror (p. 13). And as he further argues, The Daemons, by its very title, immediately cements its gothic credentials by using an archaic spelling of the word ‘demon’ (p. 16). The incantations spoken by a coven of witches on screen are of course always in Latin—a peculiarly ‘medievalist’ trope that filmmakers seem obliged to include in tales of the supernatural (the devil, of course, being the master of no other language save Latin).

The Daemons is an occult story. Barber, who completed a PhD in the study of historical texts of witchcraft, therefore gives a helpful overview of the meaning of ‘occult’:

The history of the occult is the history of a collision, sometimes a complex cooperation, between high and low culture. It’s the conflict between kings and peasants; mainstream and populist academics; high brow authors and pot boiling hacks; genre cinema and arthouse … But it isn’t just about binary oppositions. The occult is often a fusion or a reconciliation of the culturally high and low; of the politically left and right; of science and magic. It’s what occupies the liminal space between the elite and the popular; colonising the vacuum that remains when the rational tendencies of society erodes the religious structures (pp. 16–17).

Viewed in this manner The Daemons truly does represent the occult—that it to say that it represents the clash between the scientific and the supernatural—because it is the Doctor’s adversary The Master who attempts to use science to summon the devil in order to gain supernatural powers for himself. Barber then goes on to give a brief, though not overbearing, review of the occult in literature, referencing plays such as Ben Jonson’s The Witch of Edmonton (1621), the works of M.R. James, the academic research of Margaret Allen Murray, along with Hammer Horror films and other movies such as The Wicker Man (1973).

Interestingly, The Daemons was written and aired at a time when there was growing concern in the press and among politicians in Britain over the rise of Wicca—one of the stranger, if relatively benign, forms of modern medievalism/early modernism in Britain today (it takes its name from an Anglo-Saxon word, although some of its adherents do claim a longer lineage dating back to the Druids). As Peter Harvey noted in the Guardian in 1970:

Police and Churches are concerned at the growing popularity of black magic and witchcraft. Memberships of cults and covens particularly in the Home Counties, the Cotswolds, and the West Country are increasing (p. 20).

The Anglican vicar, Reverend Ronald Adkins, had the year before also been unmasked as a ‘black magician’ (p. 47). Barber, in fact, points to a number of high profile features on occultists in the 1960s and early 1970s. There seems to have been a short-lived moral panic; the Labour MP Gwilym Roberts calling for a ban on Wicca. Its adherents, too, seemed to be fairly affluent middle-class people living in the south of England. Witchcraft also became a topic of interest to modern academics at this point, for one year after The Daemons aired Keith Thomas’s classic Religion and the Decline of Magic was published. Barber points out that Thomas was not the only academic to capitalise on the growing interest in witchcraft. Among other texts published in this period were Christina Larner’s Enemies of God: The Witch-Hunt in Scotland (1981), Alan Macfarlane’s Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England (1970) and Hugh Trevor-Roper’s The European Witch-craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1968). 

Thus, when Barry Letts and Robert Sloman put pen to paper and began writing a story that would become The Daemons, it made sense to set a story of the supernatural in a remote fictionalised small village in southern England, in accordance with the Guardian’s reporting of the rise of Wicca in the Cotswolds and Home Counties. Letts’s and Sloman’s serial would also feature a female “white witch” character named Olivia Hawthorne, much like the real-life white witch Eleanor Bone who was interviewed by the Guardian. The Master’s character in the serial also recalls the real-life Alex Sanders, who made headlines in the 1970s by proclaiming himself as ‘King of the Witches’, and founder of modern British Wicca (also interviewed by the BBC in 1970).

Letts and Sloman originally wanted to push Doctor Who’s boundaries when they first started writing for the show. The unfavourable reaction to The Daemons in the press indicates that they were successful in this endeavour.

The Daemons is also unusual among Doctor Who stories because

it does not feature military or scientific institutions, labs or bases. It doesn’t even feature the TARDIS or time travel. Somehow, despite all this it has become a reference point for a particular era (p. 103).

Barber’s book about this defining serial of the Pertwee era is a fairly short and easy read but it is packed with information. Footnotes guide the reader to Barber’s primary and secondary sources—an unusual feature in a book of this scope. There is much that will please the medievalist and Doctor Who fan in Barber’s book (indeed, most medievalists I know are fans of the show, to varying degrees). Barber has historicised the serial, pointing out the contemporary news stories which influenced its creation. I would have liked—and this is by no means intended to be read as a criticism (for the book had a limited remit)—Barber to expand a bit more on the “Anti-Pertwee Backlash” that apparently occurred among the “Whovian” fandom in the 1980s; Barber’s passing remark on this made me want to learn more through various internet searches. As a post-2005 fan I had always assumed that Pertwee was one of the better Doctors so it surprised me to learn that it was not always so. This book will also appeal to those interested in the history of witchcraft and its portrayals in modern popular culture; prior to reading this book I had no idea that The Daemons was inspired by the moral panic over the rise of Wicca.

Stephen Basdeo 

Richmond: The American International University in London

August 8, 2020

International Medievalism Studies and Current Media Debates: Kalamazoo, Italy, Poland

International Medievalism and Current Media Debates: Kalamazoo, Italy, Poland


Piotr Toczyski (


This is the story of how a medievalist book, both in its Italian original and its reccent English translation, inspired my participation in the current public debate related to the Polish presidential election in the mainstream old and new media. If I take part in such debates, it is because I believe that we live in the period, when medievalism studies (and all other humanities) should be remediated and mainstreamed in the popular media. We need more scholars critically engaging with the continuing process of inventing the "Middle Ages"[1] to act as public intellectuals. What could this mainstreaming look like? I will suggest one such possibility, based on my recent media presence.


Like so many projects, it all started at the 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo in 2009, at the session "What, in the World, is Medievalism?," sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Medievalism and presided by Richard Utz[2]. There, I met an Italian scholar, Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri, with whom we later exchanged some ideas. Tommaso referred to my working paper in his 2011 book Medioevo Militante (published by Passaggi Einaudi)[3] and acknowledged it thoroughly, as well as some of the sources I later suggested. This way two Europeans, having met at Western Michigan University, experienced a specifically transatlantic dialogue – meeting in the US, but never before dialoguing in Europe. This year, nine years since its first publication, the updated and revised English translation of the book was published, and has thus become more accessible globally than its earlier Italian, Spanish, and French editions.


In the meantime, intellectuals worldwide started more and more willingly to acknowledge that our liquid postmodern world may be retold in terms of neo-medievalism – or may just simply be quasi-medieval. The media agenda opened to mainstream these and related concepts. In July 2020, I included some of these ideas into a letter to the editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, the biggest Polish quality daily, both web and print, and the letter was immediately published on their website. In the letter, I decided to mainstream an idea from the inspiring Congress experience and the similarly inspiring book. In the next paragraphs the letter (to which I hold copyright) follows:


* * *

The letter begins with the names of the medieval rulers of what used to be Poland in medieval and early postmedieval period, respectively ca. 960–992; 992–1025; 1333–1370; 1506–1548:


"We are mentally in the Middle Ages. And not even the one that ended with the fall of Constantinople or the great geographical discoveries, but the one that the French mediaevalist Jacques Le Goff called a long, extended medieval period stretching to the 19th century. You don’t believe it? Then look in your wallets. In mine I can find Mieszko I, Bolesław Chrobry, Kazimierz Wielki and Zygmunt Stary.


When in 2009 I visited the world’s largest congress of medieval scholars in western Michigan, I saw illustrations with Polish banknotes on a big screen in one of the halls. These illustrations from Poland served the Italian scientist Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri to talk about rooting our mentality in the Middle Ages. It was not until this year that the English translation of his book (The Militant Middle Ages, Brill) was published late, but the myth of the medieval ruler, who so caught the attention of the Italian scholar, accompanies us in our wallets every day. According to di Carpegna Falconieri, this is an affliction of Eastern Europe. He writes: ‘And the Medieval Era, which in the Western European countries is now a metaphor for the non-state, is seen in Eastern Europe as the foundation of both the state and the nation. The examples may be numerous, but we will limit ourselves to a few notable cases, starting with symbolism. Banknotes printed since the early Nineties and circulating in Bulgaria, Moldavia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary... (all republics) represent medieval sovereigns as fathers of the nation.’[4]


If banknotes were the only evidence, it could be considered a trifle. But what if the subjective mentality shapes our daily thinking? Political myths spoil a lot by dividing people. At the same time, they are useful, even uniting entire civilizations. It seems that Poles are united by the medieval myth of a ruler. We also see it in the election campaign. The presidential candidate currently holding this office is called the president regardless of circumstances. When running for election, there is no separation between the his presidential duties and activities as a candidate. Journalists write about the president, not the candidate, without thinking.


The archive of Gazeta Wyborcza shows that for the 30 days between June 7 - July 6, 2020, the phrase ‘President Duda’ has been mentioned 420 times, ‘Andrzej Duda’ 317 times and ‘President Andrzej Duda’ 276 times. What does this lack of precision prove? It is a manifestation of mythical thinking. The myth is constantly in our heads.


That is why I wrote to my friends: ‘Believe me, calling a candidate president is a manifestation of feudalism, a longing for a king. It’s not the right thing for us to do as a free people. During the election campaign, the president is president perhaps for two hours a day. We pay him for his presidential work, not for the rally. He runs the campaign as a candidate –  if we don’t understand this, we are not democrats, but subjects of the king.’


The question was: is it not the same in the West? Yes, it is. They may have no banknotes with kings, but in campaigns there are presidents, not candidates. During the summer months in the middle of Barack Obama’s second election campaign (1-30 June 2012) in the New York Times the words ‘President Obama’ appeared 667 times, ‘Barack Obama’ 110 times and ‘President Barack Obama’ - 27 times. The difficulty in separating the candidate’s actions from those of the president is therefore also a tendency of the Western world. For now, only some people can see that our language is controlled by mythical thinking. We have the intellectual tools to separate what a person does as a candidate and what s/he does as a president. We learn this in primary school and repeat the lessons in college level logic courses.


But for some reason we don’t reach for these tools. Myth dulls our sensitivity. We see how presidents in election campaigns do things unworthy of their status, sharpen their language and render the highest offices dishonorable for the sake of the crowd. However, if we take away the president’s presidency during the election campaign, we would feel like subjects whose king abdicated. We don’t want to let that happen.


The extended Middle Ages continue in Eastern Europe and the U.S. alike. In the west of Europe there are also quasi-medieval structures underlying the thinking about presidential power. Let’s take the example of Portugal. In a work from 2006 by Antonio R. Rubio Plo, Spanish professor of international relations and history of political thought, I read: ‘The political model makes the president a kind of ‘father of the nation’ – someone who (...) through the magic of universal suffrage, becomes a living symbol of the nation. Portugal seems to connect in this way with its rich history and legends. In a certain sense, every five years there is the return or confirmation of a new King Sebastián, the young monarch who disappeared in the wars with Morocco in 1578 and whose unlikely return was awaited by many Portuguese. It could be said that Sebastianism is not entirely dead in Portugal (...) Sebastianism – this collective urge to put great hopes in a politician – was also present in other presidencies (...) And if the truth be told, the leftist candidates (...) would also have created Sebastianist expectations (...).’[5]


A feudal mentality gives way to precision only sometimes. I find very few articles in which I read many times about ‘the presidential candidate’. Example from ‘Gazeta Wyborcza Wrocław’ - looks like inspired by the words of the ‘Women’s Strike Wroclaw’ described in its content. Even there is a reference to the ‘acting president’, but this is a step towards thinking less of the mythical and a more rational reporting of the election campaign. Let’s think - what gap could we not bridge if we had a little less president and a little more candidate?”[6]


* * *

The newspaper website is kept in Web 2.0 mode, but only the subscribers may comment. The letter, published there on pre-election Thursday, received over 20 comments from registered readers, almost all of them faavorable. Next, the editors of Gazeta Wyborcza decided to republish the letter in the prestigious weekend print magazine section of the newspaper on Saturday[7]. The editors changed the title to "Let’s dethrone them!," which may have sounded ambivalent during the ‘election silence’ which began on Saturday. I received several appreciative phone calls over the weekend.


The newspaper, setting the web-letter-changed-into-print-opinion within the framework of throne and dethroning, clearly played with the Middle Ages again, as did the digital version by framing its title around feudal kings. This way the analysis of Polish banknotes and their quasi-medieval mythscape, the resource first shown in this context in Kalamazoo, and then analyzed in scholarly writing, has been remediated after more than a decade. It has finally reached the very audience which it describes.


The global dialogues around the Middle Ages resulted in an academic work and media activity. As we see, even the ad hoc popular media headings may enrich post-medieval responses to the Middle Ages. And certainly studies in medievalism(s) have a huge potential to enrich media contexts and their current agendas.


Piotr Toczyski

M. Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw

Head, Media and Sociology of Communication


[1] Mission [Statement] (2009): Medievally Speaking.

[2] What, in the World, Is Medievalism? Global Reinventions of the Middle Ages. A Panel Discussion. (2009, May 7-10). Sponsor: Studies in Medievalism. Organizer: Richard Utz, Western Michigan Univ. Presider: Richard Utz. A panel discussion with Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri, Univ. degli Studi di Urbino “Carlo Bo”; Florin Curta, Univ. of Florida; Louise D’Arcens, Univ. of Wollongong; Mustafa Kemal Mirzeler, Western Michigan Univ.; William Snell, Keoi Univ.; Sandra Ballif Straubhaar, Univ. of Texas–Austin; and Piotr Toczyski, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences (Gründler Travel Award Winner). 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies,

[3] Di Carpegna Falconieri, T. (2011). Medioevo militante: la politica di oggi alle prese con barbari e crociati. Einaudi.

[4] Di Carpegna Falconieri, T. (2020). The Militant Middle Ages: Contemporary Politics Between New Barbarians and Modern Crusaders. Brill (p. 178).

[5] Rubio Plo, A. R. (2006). Presidential Elections in Portugal: Cavaquism, Sebastianism and Popular Hopes, Resultados de la búsqueda, Análisis del Real Instituto Elcano (ARI), (translated from Spanish original:!ut/p/a0/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOKNQ1zcA73dDQ38_YKNDRwtfN1cnf2cDf1DjfULsh0VAepxmvs!/?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/elcano/Elcano_es/Zonas_es/ARI27-2011).

[6] Toczyski, P. (2020, July 9). Nazywanie kandydata prezydentem jest przejawem feudalizmu, tęsknotą za królem [Calling a Candidate President is a Sign of Feudalism, a Longing for a King],,,162657,26103462,nazywanie-kandydata-prezydentem-jest-przejawem-feudalizmu-tesknota.html

[7] Toczyski, P. (2020, July 11). Zdetronizujmy ich! [Let’s Dethrone Them!], Gazeta Wyborcza, p. 21.

August 6, 2020

Xcalibur, The Musical

Xcalibur, The

Musical (2019)

Streaming on Broadway on Demand (Summer 2020)


Reviewed by

Kevin J. Harty

La Salle University

4/5 stars


Stage musicals are big business in Korea, where they feature casts and orchestras so large that they would bankrupt Broadway and West End productions, and play to audiences numbering in the thousands. Xcalibur, The Musical—directed by Stephen Rayne with music by Frank Wildhorn, book by Ivan Menchell, and lyrics by Robin Lerner—is such a stage musical.

Xcalibur had its beginnings in 2014 in Switzerland, where the original production premiered at the Theater St. Gallen. In a formula that has proven successful for any number of producers and composers including Wildhorn, who is a well know figure in musical theatre in Japan and Korea (as well as on Broadway—The Scarlet Pimpernel and Jekyll & Hyde), the show was originally written in English and then translated into German.  The Swiss production then toured Germany for two years of fine tuning, after which it was translated back into English and then into Korean for the 2019 Seoul premiere, which attracted more than enthusiastic sold-out audiences once it was announced that the three principal roles of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere would be rotated among leading K-pop performers.  The Korean production was subsequently recorded for audio and video distribution, and is currently streaming on Broadway on Demand in Korean (and Latin!—for the incantations of Merlin and Morgan) with English subtitles, either for free or for a nominal fee.

Medievalism in the form of the stage musical is rare.  Spamalot stands in a category all by itself because it is, well, Spamalot.  Pippin, despite its lack of any historicity, has its moments. Marco Polo, in several less than memorable musicals, gets to fall unwittingly in love with the daughter of Genghis Khan, both of whom are invariably played by non-Asian actors.  Nothing is added to the legends of Robin Hood by Twang! or of Joan of Arc by Goodtime Charley. Camelot has not aged well, and has always been problematic, despite any Kennedy-era nostalgia, because of its genre (it is a musical tragedy), and even worse its gender politics (“How to Handle a Woman” indeed!). Xcalibur is harmless enough—and its plot is markedly different than that of the original Swiss production, which was entitled Artus-Excalibur, and which told a much more complicated version of the Arthuriad. What may be most interesting about Xcalibur is that it is simply a rare example of a Korean take on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. 

To retell the story of Arthur is to retell an oft-told tale that offers little in the way of suspense and that generally admits little in the way of variation.  There is, as Norris J. Lacy once remarked in an essay on Arthurian film, a “tyranny of tradition” underlying the Arthuriad. (See “Arthurian Film and the Tyranny of Tradition,” Arthurian Interpretations 4.1 [Fall 1989]: 75-85.) Xcalibur avoids one trap that many versions of the Arthuriad fall into: it does not seek to tell the whole story of Arthur and his knights, though it does include a significant number of well-known highpoints.  It offers the (back)story of the sword in the stone, the founding of the Round Table, the conflict between Arthur and his half-sister Morgan, the betrayal of Lancelot and Guinevere, and an Arthur victorious who saves his country from an invading horde of pagan Saxons—which is, admittedly, more than enough to fill 150 minutes of stage time.

Xcalibur opens in fifth century Britain on a farm in the west managed by the kindly Ector who has adopted Arthur from Merlin, along with any number of other boys (the band of brothers who will become the Knights of the Round Table), including Lancelot whom the kindly Ector has rescued from a broken home and an abusive father. The country is riven within by political divisions though united in its adoption of the Christian faith and threatened from without by pagan Saxons who have just landed a force of some 2000 marauders on the country’s eastern shore under the leadership of the cruel Wolf who set about doing what we expect pagan marauders to do.  Attacking and sacking a monastery, the Saxons murder the nuns and monks, and take captive Morgan, the daughter of Uther Pendragon who has been imprisoned there since the death of her father. Morgan yearns for her freedom, the throne, and Merlin—not necessarily in that order—and Xcalibur advances a complicated love-hate relationship between Morgan and Merlin.  Uther had succumbed to the fire of the dragon—its destructive force—instead of the breath of the dragon—its creative force.  Morgan will reject the latter; the plot of Xcalibur turns on whether Arthur will eventually embrace the fire or the breath of the dragon.

As Morgan leads Wolf and his Saxons to Uther’s castle in the Midlands, Merlin journeys westward to inform a more than shocked Arthur (on his eighteenth birthday no less) of his true identity and destiny, which is confirmed when he is able to pull the sword from the stone.  In short order, everyone rallies behind Arthur, plans are made to build Camelot on the site of an ancient Druidic temple, and Arthur meets Guinevere, in a scene reminiscent of their meeting in Camelot where she doesn’t know who he is at first—though here Guinevere is not some pouty, pampered coquette lamenting that she will never experience the “simple joys of maidenhood.”  In Xcalibur, Guinevere is trained in the martial arts, and will actually best Lancelot in a bōjitsu match when they first meet. 

All continues to go well—too well—as the Round Table takes shape, and Arthur and Guinevere marry—as the entire cast sings of “one king, one voice, one land, one heart, one oath, one quest, one vision shared.” But both the Saxons and Morgan have been up to no good, as we would expect them to be. Fanning the Saxon ire, Arthur has killed the Wolf’s son when a Saxon raiding party attempted to attack Camelot, and Morgan is unhappy that she has been rejected by Merlin and passed over for the throne.  The Saxons succeed in poisoning Ector, and Lancelot and Guinevere betray Arthur—both of which events lead Arthur to embrace the dragon’s fire.  The murder of Ector and the betrayal by his best friend and his wife unhinge Arthur who banishes almost everyone from Camelot, and who then resorts to plans to defeat the Saxons that will result in nothing short of disaster, with Britain being overrun by pagan hordes.

As is often the case in versions of the Arthuriad, it is up to Merlin to come to Arthur’s assistance in his hour of need.  Xcalibur had already established a symbiotic relationship between Merlin and Morgan, and Merlin will feed off that relationship to bring Arthur to his senses.  Just as Arthur was conceived when Merlin allowed Uther to shape shift into Ygraine’s husband, so Merlin shape shifts into Arthur and asks Morgan to kill him.  When Morgan does so, both she and Merlin die, and the real Arthur comes to his senses and leads his troops to victory against the Saxons. Lancelot too returns to die fighting at Arthur’s side, and as nuns and monks appear on the battlefield to tend to the wounded and pray for the dying, they are joined by a white wimpled novice, Guinevere, whom Arthur forgives, and who joins the convent freely to atone for her sins.  Xcalibur then ends with a double musical reprise as Arthur sings “What Does It Mean to Be a King” and “Remember This Night,” the latter perhaps an intentional echo of “the one brief shining moment that was Camelot.”

A twelfth-century commentator, long thought to be Alanus de Insulis, is said to have asked these rhetorical questions: “Whither has not flying fame spread and familiarized the name of Arthur the Briton, even as far as the empire of Christendom extends?  Who, I say, does not speak of Arthur the Briton, since he is also better known to the peoples of Asia than to the Britanni, as our palmers returning from the East inform us?”  (Quoted in Roger Sherman Loomis, ed., Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, A Collaborative History [1959; rpt. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1979], p. 62.)  Xcalibur would certainly suggest that Arthur the Briton is “known to the people of Asia.” Indeed, there is a flourishing Japanese branch of the International Arthurian Society that has produced a steady stream of important scholarship, and Japanese anime has given us a number of new versions of the Arthuriad. But as I indicated earlier, the Korean embrace of the Arthuriad has been less evident.

Given its connection to the world of K-pop, the Broadway on Demand production of Xcalibur is certainly a stage musical for and about young people. The performances are energetic, and all the members of the cast can really sing.  The lyrics are catchy—the two reprised songs, “What Does It Mean to Be a King” and “Remember This Night,” are touching and memorable. The sets are impressive.  The choreography is expert.  A great deal of work obviously went into the production, and the audience reaction is overwhelming positive.  Certainly the production’s message—“one king, one voice, one land, one heart, one oath, one quest, one vision shared”—would have resonance in Britain in 2019, arguably no matter which side of the Brexit argument one wanted to advance.  The Breton hope has long been that Arthur will return in England’s hour of need.  But might not the message of Xcalibur also have a resonance on a peninsula that is home to a once united, now too long divided Korea in a year when an American President alas raised false hopes that “one shared vision” was possible for the two Koreas?

Xcalibur, The Musical. Music by Frank Wildhorn, book by Ivan Menchell, and lyrics by Robin Lerner. Director: Stephen Rayne. Korean Lyricist/Script: Park Chun Hwi. Executive Producer: Eum Hong Hyeon for EMK Musical Company International, 2019. Starring in the recorded version Kai (Arthur), Sophie Kim (Guinevere), and Park Hang Hyun (Lancelot). Streaming on Broadway on Demand. Summer 2020. 150 minutes.

Kevin J. Harty

La Salle University