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Review: RuneSical by Sian Thomas

4/5 stars

Having been invited to watch RuneSical as it came online, I thought the opportunity would present itself as a fun morning. My experiences with RuneScape are fairly minimal – I remember my uncle playing it in the early 2000s, and by “remember” I mean more of “vaguely recall the low-poly, very triangular shapes of the game”, and my partner enjoys grinding the game while watching a movie, or a TV show. He’s pretty well-versed in such a universe both in its actual gameplay and its general public reception, and I asked him to watch it with me for references I definitely wouldn’t get (which happened) and jokes I wouldn’t understand (which also happened). I did initially worry I would be left in the lurch if I didn’t understand much of anything about RuneScape before diving in, but the show is fairly gentle with its audience, with things for people who land anywhere on the spectrum of their familiarity with the game. Ultimately, I like theatre, and he likes the game, so we were both in for a good time.

We watched it together, roaming through the choices presented to us. I went into it aware of it being a choose-your-own adventure (which I admit, I was really interested to see how it would have worked live, and wish I could have seen it in its most natural state!). Each segment of the story presents you with two or more choices for the next, altering your adventure each time. Some choices presented lead to the same decisions being made regardless (Lance adventuring with Odin, for example) in order to get the story moving and not to abruptly end the play before it was to even begin. It was a fun twist to traditional theatre in that way, with a kind of audience participation that I, for once, didn’t find myself dreading with a lump in my throat since I was sat comfortably in my pyjamas, at home. I think the decision to put it online was fantastic – it was interactive and fun, while keeping a strong hold on a traditional theatre atmosphere. I felt like I was there, which was impressive.

RuneSical had a small but talented cast: Christian Maynard (Lance), Katie Pritchard (Odin), Jenna Sian O’Hara (Pearl), Sam Cochrane (The Wizard), Alex Prescot (Player 1), Theo Diedrick (Player 2) & Lydia Barton Lovett (Player 3). Each was skilful in their acting roles and musical ones, the show was filled with fun and lively music, Broadway-esque notes and runs.

While there are around 20 videos to the story overall, as a viewer you will only see 7 each run, so each song sticks out with individuality as each choice is presented and made. My favourites from my particular experience were, The Fisherman Song #2, and It’s Bad Being Good. And, though I never realised it having never played the game, my partner picked up on musical motifs from the game acting as the springboard for some songs, which I thought was a really fun addition to the play!

The album for the musical is available on both Spotify and Apple Music.

RuneSical was a fun, vibrant show sprung from a source I’d never have expected to have or get a musical adaptation, and I really enjoyed watching it! It was more than just a fantasy play and, I felt, more than just a fistful of references and jokes. There was a good heart to the show and a fun plot with a nice twist for its characters.

Sian Thomas