Nightmare drive and Knightmare Live

The Helmet of Justice...ready for action
The Helmet of Justice…ready for action

“There’s a goblin in front of you. Just sort of…hurdle it…”

Last night I went on an adventure into the dungeons on the quest for the cup (well, I went to watch ‘Knightmare Live’ at the Lowry Theatre in Manchester, which was definitely the next best thing).

As a child I religiously watched ‘Knightmare’ every week in the Friday night kid’s TV slot. The concept of the programme was this…an 11 year old nerdy boy (or, very occasionally, a nerdy girl) would don a ridiculously high-waisted pair of trousers and his best shirt and gather a small team of equally nerdy and squeaky-voiced mates. His mates would then attempt to give vocal instructions to guide the first nerd around a series of rooms (as nerd 1 also had to don the ‘helmet of justice’ to complete the trouser and shirt ensemble and could not see forward of his feet as the helmet covered his eyes). In each low-tech 1980s CGI room was a character to interact with or puzzle to solve in order to progress through the dungeon without dying a gruesome and unusual death by falling into a bottomless pit or being eaten by a dragon or suchlike (they always died regardless of their tenacity and enthusiasm). The team of nerds were ‘helped’ by Dungeon Master Treguard (‘a bloke in his 40s whose only hobby was to send blind children to their deaths’) and the obligatory villain was Lord Fear (a chap who frequently went OTT with the mascara). It all seemed to make complete sense to my 9 year old self (it is totally bonkers now I come to think of it and the CGI looks spectacularly dodgy but it is still lots of fun).
Here is a little clip if you missed it in the late 1980s/ early 1990s:

Last night’s stage show was a big, fat dose of nostalgic silliness and my face is still aching from laughing so much. The entire audience was made up of people in their 30’s (the Knightmare generation) and there was a very large proportion of blokes with beards and black t-shirts (many sporting ‘Star Wars’ logos on them). The sound of 400+ people all laughing so hard when a kazoo was lobbed onto the stage by an audience member and cheering at the sight of the iconic knapsack is difficult to explain but it was good to see I was not alone as a fan of The Helmet (in fact quite a few members of the audience had remained stuck in time for 25 years and still looked the epitome of the classic teenage nerd (albeit now with added bumfluff beards, expanded black t-shirt collections and a penchant for ‘Game of Thrones’) but ‘time works differently in the dungeon’.

At several points I laughed so hard I nearly required a change of undergarments and I take from it a new joke to tell at dinner parties…

Effeminate wall demon with wildly wobbling eyeballs: “tell me a joke so that you may pass”
Helmeted adventurer (slightly drunk): “what is grey and shouldn’t be in a tree?”
Effeminate wall demon: “I don’t know”
Helmeted adventurer: “A car park”
*tumblweed moment while 400 people consider this*
Effeminate wall demon: “Ah yes…a tree would be a terrible place for a car park…that’s why it works! I have a cousin who is a car park, he will love that joke”

I drove for almost 7 hours with a toddler and a baby in the car requiring frequent nourishment and entertainment (it should have only taken 4.5 hours but we spent a lot of time queuing in a very British fashion as no fewer than 5 sets of drivers crashed their vehicles ahead of us). We listened to ‘The Cat in the Hat’, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack in rotation for the entire journey (approximately 783 playings each) and, of course, Catrin was sure to wait until we were in standstill traffic with no prospect of pulling-over opportunities before she declared, in a panicked voice, “I need a weeeeeeee! It’s coming noooooowwwww!!!” However, as I squelched back to the hotel with my husband and his brother after the show through wet, cold Manchester I felt that the drive of doom was worth it to glimpse back at my past and laugh just for a couple of hours. It struck me that I was only 6 years older than Catrin is now when I watched ‘Knightmare’ on our chunky old TV with 4 buttons (1 for each channel) on it. Things have come along a bit since then but a child’s imagination is still as vivid.


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