To adults of a certain age, the mere mention of Knightmare sends shivers of nostalgia down the spine.
First broadcast on CITV back in 1987, the show saw four brave youngsters tasked with traversing a dungeon filled with any number of puzzles, challenges and strange characters.
One of the four would take on the role of the sightless dungeoneer – they wore a knight’s helmet that rendered them blind – with his or her three remaining teammates on hand to guide them through the various challenges.
These challenges were rendered via what was, at the time, a state-of-the-art blue screen Chroma key, not dissimilar to the kind used to present weather forecasts, in an approach that was about as close to virtual reality as it got back in those days.
Over the course of 112 episodes, Knightmare captivated an entire generation of kids, helped in no small part by Dungeon master Treguard, played by actor Hugo Myatt and forever on hand to doll out wisdom, riddles and all-round advice to the players.
For a while, it felt like the Knightmare would never end but, after eight series, the show went on something approaching a hiatus in 1994 with many still confident it would one day return.
Since then, Knightmare has become the subject of much discussion among kids of the ‘90s, with hours spent regaling each other with wistful memories from the show’s original run and their hopes of it someday returning.
Paul Flannery was probably one of those kids. The only difference is that Paul decided to do something about it.
An award winning comedian and actor who will be familiar to anyone who has ventured north for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he recalls the moment he started thinking about turning his passion for the CITV favourite into something substantial: Knightmare Live.
“I’d been up to the Edinburgh fringe with a few comedy acts before and I was just sitting in a pub with some friends discussing what would make for a good Edinburgh show,” Paul tells loaded.
“We talked about all those 90s TV shows we loved but Knightmare was the one I could envisage working as a stage show. It was just an idea I couldn’t get out of my head.”
Flannery certainly had a point. Knightmare’s use of the blue screen Chroma key lent itself to the stage, while Paul is quick to point out another appealing aspect of putting together a live show for adult fans of the show.
Soon enough, he put together all the ingredients for a live, stage version of the show, with himself in the role of Dungeon master and members of the audience tasked with taking on the challenge of the dungeon’s many twists and turns.
“Knightmare has such a large scope on such a small scale. Even the original TV show. You can have this vast dungeon but it’s just this one blue room over and over again,” he explains.
“I remember watching Knightmare as a kid and how everyone used to sit there shouting at the TV. Those elements just worked really well live – having audience members shout at contestants and just get it off their chests really.”
A sell-out success in Edinburgh last year, Paul is currently midway through a UK tour with three performances at the Southbank Underbelly festival.
It’s a chance for grown-ups to relive their youth and find out once and for all if they really could have done a better job of escaping the dungeons those kids made a mess of all those years ago.
Paul reckons a few audience members will be in for a surprise though.
“You always felt you could do so much better than the people that were on the show back in those days but it’s just not true,” he admits.
Tasked with traversing Lord Fear’s catacombs of evil in an improvised quest that is as much fun as it is funny, Paul does at least have some basic tips for any would-be Knightmare Live contestants out there.
“Do listen to the Treyguard. He gave out so many clues and would just constantly be drip-feeding information,” he says.
“Don’t ever pick up the weapons either. I think the official line is that ‘weapons are no good to the blind’. On quest table they put out all these weapons but the idea of Knightmare is that you should never need to use these weapons, you should always be able to outwit the dungeon using guile rather than force. After all, it’s a child in a hat. The idea is to think yourself out of trouble.”
And if there is one rule above all else that Paul abides by, it’s the following:
“Make sure you listen to your team and go in with the knowledge of left and right.”
Due to head to the Exeter Phoenix following another couple of shows at the Fringe, Knightmare Live also comes with the endorsement of the show’s original star, Mayets, who has even guest-starred on a couple of performances – and he’s not the only one.
“I’ve also met Alec Westwood, who played Folly The Jester in the original series,” Paul adds.
Flannery isn’t resting on his laurels either, with a solo show focusing on the fantastic world of Dungeons and Dragons in the offing at present.
It’s time to swear fealty to the dungeon master.