The Castle of Melvales

On December 13th and 15th – in just over a week’s time – we’ll be performing this beautiful and powerful tale as part of the Hedgespoken Winter Showcase at Dartington.

The Showcase brings together four amazing theatre companies for four nights of extraordinary performances. We’ll be writing about them all over the next few days. If you’re in Devon, or can get there soon, I can only recommend that you avail yourself of the ridiculously cheap tickets and superb bargain offers and join us in the warm, splendidly-festooned Hedgespoken tent – tickets are on sale now, here, where you can also find more details about the offers.


The Castle of Melvales… What might you expect from such a story?

I could tell you about the king’s sons – Valentine, Oliver and Jack,  or about the king’s strange illness. I could tell you about the peculiar and hideous old men we encounter along the way. I could tell you about the Castle itself, and the ominous denizens of that strange and powerful place. Of course, I could tell you about the Golden Apples, I could tell you about bears and beheadings and adventures and queens and gypsies and all manner of excitements and curiosities…

But, I’m more interested in this: there is a possibility in this story, when we’re all gathered together, you and I and everyone else, for some old magic to come through into the tent. It’s one of those stories. It positively crackles. There are secret, sacred things going on it. This story… Half of it I learned easily; half of it was learned deep in the Greenwood itself – and that’s all I’ll say about that.

‘The Castle of Melvales’ by Rima Staines

The Castle of Melvales is based on a Welsh Gypsy story that I first came across a few years ago in a 19th century collection by Frances Groome, and then found again in Alan Garner’s (very fine) Book of British Fairy Tales. It is a peculiar tale, ringing with echoes of Parzival and wreathed with old magic. I’ve been telling it all this late summer and into Autumn and it’s a humdinger.

It’s the journey of a young man who begins the tale as something of an idiot and ends it… Well, he ends it in style, with dancing – this much I can tell you without giving too much away. It’s gruesome in parts and defiantly transgressive in others. It’s suitable for all, so long as they don’t mind stampeding skeletal horses or a little bit of murder.

We’re telling the tale on Tuesday and Thursday evening at 7pm. Tom will be doing the telling and Rima will be providing sound-illustration and artistry as accompaniment. Our prints and books and posters will be on sale, there’ll be mulled wine from Dartington and after each show there’ll be beautiful live music and convivial conversation all around.

Come and join us in the tent at Dartington for some proper, old-school magic. 


To read more on the blog about the other shows we’re doing as part of this year’s Winter Showcase , you can find them all here!

3 thoughts on “The Castle of Melvales

  1. I wish I could be there… My working hours and lack of transport prohibit that though :(

    I know You’ll knock their socks off though Tom & Rima <3

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