What is Medieval Times? Medievalists.net decided to see for ourselves and go to the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament in Toronto, Canada. Here is our review of the show
It was with some trepidation that we went to take in a show that featured men dressed as knights jousting with each other. After all, we’re supposed to be serious medievalists, and Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament isn’t exactly an academic conference. However, after taking in a couple hours of sword fighting and chivalry, we can honestly say that we had a really great time.
Medieval Times is a dinner theatre show, where the guests watch a play set within a medieval tournament. It has dozens of performers who play knights, squires, falconers and, of course, royalty. The highlight of the show is watching the knights joust on horseback with each other, leading to impressively choreographed sword fights. While all this is happening, you also get to eat a meal!
This show started in North America in 1983, and has grown to now being based in nine cities. Here in Toronto, they run the show up to three times per day, bringing in up to 700 people for each dinner.
Once the doors are opened, the crowds go into the pre-show hall, where they are greeted by some of the characters. You can get your pictures taken with the ‘King’ or ‘Princess’, speak with the falconer, buy drinks at the bar, or toys at the gift counter. Lastly, for those who aren’t squeamish – there is a walk-through museum of sorts that showcases various medieval torture techniques, devices and punishments. Perfect before dinner!
The show has a relatively simple plot, where you are part of a feast the King is holding watching as the drama unfolds regarding a missing prince and a rogue knight who isn’t going to play fair. The simpleness of the plot actually works in its favour – as you eat your dinner you are not wondering about what’s happening or who is doing what, it just doesn’t get that complicated. You can enjoy your meal, have a conversation with your friends and still not miss out on the action.
As the dinner progresses, you get to see various performances, including a falconry display and horses showing off some impressive manoeuvres. What it all leads to a tournament, where six knights try to win at various games and feats before they battle each other.
The arena itself is divided into six sections, that represent a different colour for each knight – red, green, yellow etc – We were with the Black and White knight. This gives you a good reason to cheer on your knight, who in return, gives out flowers to the pretty girls or children in his section.
While the story states that this play is based on late-11th century Spain, the show doesn’t aim for historical accuracy – instead, you get a “flavour” of medieval life. Young children will get a learning experience, as they see how weapons like lances and swords were used in battle. However, they might be having too much fun to care!
The dedication of the performers is impressive – the ones we spoke to have spent years with Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament and clearly enjoy what they do. They are Jacks-of-all-trades: part-actor, part-athlete, and always prepared to deal with their animals and interact with the audience. They put a lot of enthusiasm and energy into the show, and did a fantastic job!
We should also mention the food. For those who love, meat, you get served chicken, ribs and a potato (but no cutlery – you’re eating with your hands). This food was good – not great – and the portions were large enough that you shouldn’t be leaving hungry. For those of you who don’t eat meat, there is a vegetarian meal option which consists of a rice stuffed pepper, potatoes, hummus and a few other veggies. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t a 5 star meal either. The portion size for the vegetarian meal is also fairly large.
The show is geared towards a younger audience with a wink to adults to play along. It is meant to be light-hearted fun with a medieval twist. Those looking for hard and fast historical accuracy – you’re not going to find it here. This is the kind of event where you come with and open mind and a sense of enjoyment versus a serious re-enactor’s/scholar’s eye. It’s a good time for young and old alike while still imparting knowledge and encouraging curiosity about the Middle Ages.
You can visit the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament website at: http://medievaltimes.com/