BY TOBY PORTER
It might be a shock to some youngsters but the middle ages is not the time when grown-ups started watching Strictly Come Dancing.
Probably the best way to revive the legend of King Arthur, then, is to set it in modern times.
So South London is the setting for 20th Century Fox’s The Kid Who Would Be King, which opened in cinemas on Friday. Scenes from the film were shot on Tooting Bec Common and in Blackheath.
Our present royal family these days is less about dashing knights and warrior kings than supposed cat fights at Kensington Palace.
The new film from Joe Cornish is also updated – in a school where nerds and outsiders try to stand up to bullies.
Cornish’s debut Attack the Block crashed alien sci-fi into the mean streets of South London, so he seems to consider this home territory.
This time, the tales of Arthurian legend invade the South London suburbs – an idea that first popped into the former Adam and Joe Show star’s head when he was 13.
One scene, where Arthur is chased home from school by Lance and Kaye – bully pupils who are the modern equivalent of Sir Lancelot and Sir Kay – was shot on Tooting Bec Common in December 2017.
After hiding from the playground nasties, Alex finds Excalibur – the Sword in the Stone – in a concrete pillar in a building site.
There are other strong South London connections. Star Trek and X-Men megastar Sir Patrick Stewart, as the old Merlin, did not have to go far from his home in Bermondsey.
Angus Imrie, son of TV star Celia, was a pupil at Dulwich College. And Nathan Lloyd Stewart-Jarrett, star of E4’s Misfits and Channel 4’s Utopia, was born and raised in Wandsworth.
Cornish told Empire magazine: “The idea of The Sword in the Stone in the modern world immediately presented all these possibilities to revitalise a legend that’s constantly told in a rather boring sword-and-sandals historical way.
“You can’t get a greater difference than the Knights of the Round Table and a bunch of contemporary teenage kids. The idea of putting any kind of sword or weapon into the hands of a London kid fills people with terror.”
Cornish, who went to school in Westminster, added: “Me and Adam Buxton and Louis Theroux used to bunk off school in the morning and go to McDonald’s in Victoria Street to have a delicious sausage and egg McMuffin. That’s hardly as noble a reason for skipping school as the kids in the movie have.”
There is the added complication of Arthur’s twisted sister Morgana, played by Mission Impossible star Rebecca Ferguson. When Excalibur is released, so is she. She’s waiting for the land to become lost and leaderless, for the people of Britain to feel divided and lost and weak, so that she can re-emerge and gain dominion of the country that she lost. No parallels in today’s state of affairs, then….. King Arthur did, according to the legend, unite the warring tribes of Britain. A 12-year-old kid who can stand up to a bigoted bully might be able to bring people together better than the current powers that be.