There are so many medieval buildings, towns, remains and museums in the Dordogne region, all intriguing in their own way; but sometimes it's nice to sit back, relax, let history come to you and enjoy an energetic and comical show.
The Durandal Vs Excalibur Equestrian Show is just that, a spectacle filled with skills, acrobatics and heavy dose of humour. Situated at the very top of the town of Rocamadour I had a bit of a trek to reach the venue as i had parked at the very bottom of the town. However, with the show starting at 15:00 I had plenty of time to peruse the streets, have some lunch and catch the afternoon show.
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect as I entered the gated compound. Filled with medieval paraphernalia the yard had carts, barrels, blacksmiths equipment and few characters roaming around in period dress. I bought my ticket and waited with the other audience members to see what was going to happen. Even though it was September the sun was still strong and beating down on us to make it feel a toasty 36 degrees. Luckily they serve cold drinks at the ticket booth so stock up on some bottled water before the show begins.
All of a sudden the chatter began between members of the cast and a man on horseback appeared above a wooden fence to announce the show. Even though the theatre group are French and the show is wholly performed in French, it is fairly easy to keep a track of what is going, especially when it begins for real.
The basic plot is similar to that of Excalibur, a sword that is buried in stone, but this sword is known as Durandal. The sword is said to have been given to Charlemagne by an angel and he, in turn, gave it to Roland (one of his warriors). Folklore tells us that Roland attempted to destroy the sword to prevent it from being captured by the attacking Saracens, and created Roland's Breach in the Pyrenees in the process. But Durendal proved indestructible, so he hid it beneath his body along with the oliphant, the horn used to alert Charlemagne. There are claims that Durandal still exists, embedded in a cliff wall in Rocamadour, and in the twelfth century, the monks of Rocamadour claimed that Roland threw the sword rather than hiding it beneath himself.
The show takes a slight twist on this story and brings their English rivals into the equation who want to steal the sword. Full of swashbuckling action, amazing horse stunts, spectacular riding a quick display of medieval jousting the show is action packed from start to finish.
The actors really throw themselves into the roles that they are playing and you can certainly feel yourself siding with either the French or the English with plenty of boo-ing and hissing going on. The kids that were watching were completely enthralled by the whole performance and to be honest so were the adults! this is definitely a show that is suitable for all ages, and indeed all nationalities.
For the price of €10 (€7 for children), the Durandal Vs Excalibur Equestrian Show is a good hours entertainment. The horses are by far the stars of the show and a chance to get your photo taken with one of them at the end is a must.