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Kynren 2.0

After reviewing Kynren last year and being amazed at the sheer ambition of the production and the project itself, I was interested to go back and see how the show has changed over the course of the past twelve months. My Dad has been hankering to go since last year, so I took him along, knowing that he would regress to a small child and be awed by it all.

Last year the spectacular (the only UK show of its kind) was seen by 100,000 visitors. Over 1,500 people (and a whole zoo of animals) make up the cast and crew who bring to life over 2,000 years of British history over the course of ninety minutes. Both North East history and British history in general are condensed into a clever script which spans from the Roman occupation all the way through to World War II. The story is told through the eyes of Arthur, a young boy from a North East pit village (he’s a lot more involved in the story this year).

Set against the backdrop of Auckland Castle (and a full moon depending on when you visit), you’ll find yourself transported back in time alongside up to 8,000 other visitors in the Tribune, in front of a set which encompasses a lake, medieval castles and few major surprises (in the shape of important historical vehicles). Expect an original (and improved) script, amazing special effect, video projections, water geysers, fireworks and an emotive soundtrack which helps you to have a truly immersive experience.

I went on a regular night, and had the experience of a customer and not a member of the press. The main parking is about a fifteen minute walk away from the site, but shuttle buses are available if you don’t fancy the walk. We were waiting for the bus but I though it might be nice to get some fresh air, and enjoyed the scenic walk down to the main entrance (there was even a busker on the path which was a nice surprise). Security was high, armed guards were patrolling and no backpacks were allowed (transparent plastic bags are on offer) which was reassuring. I noticed that there were a lot more buildings than last year – permanent stables, merchandise huts and signage, giving it much more established feel. Last year, countless volunteers lined the path to the site, which to be honest was a bit Americanised and over the top (when you hear ‘enjoy the show’ about fifty times on the way in it gets a bit old). Not so this year, thankfully.

Leave plenty of time to get to the site – the website advises that you should get to the bus pick up point at least ninety minutes before the start of your performance (just in case everyone turns up at once), and the ticket/security check forty-five minutes before your performance start time. (Find out more about arrival times here). I lost my patience a bit waiting for so long for the show to start to be honest, but I understand why they advise you to arrive early (it all kind of needs to happen in the dark for it to work). If you or a family member has limited mobility please click here to find out more about accessibility.

The projections are beautiful
Pretty much every taste and craving is provided for visitors this year in the Food Village – fish and chips, carvery, a chicken grill, sausage grill, artisan coffee and a well stocked bar were just a few of the many food and drink options available (yes, expect festival prices for a beer). Just don’t expect to be able to sit down and eat (they can’t provide seating for some reason), and you can’t take food or drink past the ticket and security check. Food and drink is available for two hours before the start of each performance, but you can’t take food into the Tribune with you. As you would expect, they’ve definitely jumped on the merchandising bandwagon – you can now get a programme, CDs, ponchos, T-shirts, an array of historical kids toys, oh and blankets because it can get pretty cold. You can only pay by card for merchandise on site.

The main difference between last year and this year for me was the script, which is much tighter than last year. The story encompasses twenty-nine scenes, and is narrated by the likes of Kevin Whately (definitely an improvement on last year). For me the story is more moving and emotional this year, as it includes more detail on local mining communities and the challenges they faced, and a technically brilliant war scene which is guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye. Another big difference is that Arthur is included into the script more on his quest to find out more about Kynren (past generations) which works better. Being from the North East, some of the scenes are especially moving and awe-inspiring, especially when projections are used to recreate a famous landmark. One of my favourite parts of the show last year was the animals, and I stand by that again. When the geese come on set, I practically started jumping around with glee. Expect jousting horses, sheep, goats, oxen and donkeys too.

Industrial Revolution (seemed appropriate in black and white)

Just like last year, the finale is truly jaw-dropping, even better than I remember it twelve months ago. I dare anyone of any age not to be enthralled by the fireworks. As I looked around at the families around me,  both grandparents and small children were filled with amazement. The ninety minutes seemed to zoom by as we raced through major historical events and met the likes of Boudicca, William the Conquerer, Shakespeare and Queen Victoria. Like the kids sitting in front of me, I found myself wanting to find out more about the history or my own region, my own country. If that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

The Finale

To book tickets, click here
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*I received a complimentary ticket to attend Kynren in exchange for a review 

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