Helloweeen!!! Atkinson Action Horses at Royal Armouries Leeds

Venue: Royal Armouries
Dates: Friday 1st November and both performances on Saturday 2nd November
Times: 12:00 & 15:00

Atkinson Action Horses are firm favourites at the Royal Armouries, Leeds and despite poor weather this weekend there were still eager spectators in the tiltyard on both days.

I’ve written several articles about this talented team of riders, They provide the horses for the Jousts at Royal Armouries and the stunt riders act as squires at those displays. They also provide ground crew for the Jousts. This however was one of their own shows.

A large cast in the show and appologies to those whose names I don’t know for not giving them full credit. The photos you will see in this article will be from different performances. I attended the 12:00 performance on Friday and both performances on Saturday. I was accompanied on Friday by my son and his fiance, Saul and Ellis, on Friday and on Saturday to the 15:00 showing only. Photos were taken by either my friend Kelly, who attended separately on both days, Ellis, Saul or myself.

A fairly detailed description follows below. Remember when reading that the welfare of the horses is always paramount and all precautions were taken to make everything safe for the horses.

The event was narrated by Puck, who to be fair seemed to keep swapping sides…

According to the story a stunt rider had died during rehearsal and indeed prior to the actual start to the show we had witnessed some zombies burying some poor fellow. Puck asked for a volunteer to take the place of this fallen rider, no prior skill required as magic would provide all the skill required, Puck would work the volunteer as a puppet master works a marionette.

Several brave people did actually thrust a hand aloft, others offered a friend or family member. Puck however sought out someone who had come alone…

He found a volunteer and sent her off to join the team… only to reveal that a volunteer wasn’t really required, she was a blood sacrifice.

Screams were heard from off stage and then Death entered the tiltyard.

Death was asked to raise the poor unfortunate fallen stunt performer.

With his powerful magik (see below regarding spelling) he did just that, as a fresh zombie.

The zombie rose out of the ground and ran into the audience.

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Where he prowled a moment before rejoining his undead allies in the main performance area of the tiltyard.

Then our bold heroes for this story entered the scene,seemingly oblivious to the zombies and Death…

 There was Prince Benjamin,

His bride to be Princess Lucy, His

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brother Prince Shirley and Julie, Ranger of the West.

Prince Benjamin informed Puck that everyone present was invited to a celebration to mark the forthcoming wedding to princess Lucy. The joining of two noble houses ensuring peace in our time.

Unfortunately Death decided the ruin things by killing Prince Benjamin’s horse… Which was rather mean spirited.

Puck however came to the rescue and demonstrated how powerful his magik  was spelled, he explained, with a ‘k’ not a ‘c’. He claimed this showed that his magik was ancient and powerful – I think Death’s might be spelled with a ‘j’ not a ‘g’ being all that bit more powerful, Puck didn’t say.

Puck used his magik to transform the dead horse into a live Unicorn!

Prince Benjamin then showed us how in tune he was with his Unicorn.  by having it bow.

Rear up and some bareback riding.

Unfortunately while gallivanting around he failed to spot Death kidnap Princess Lucy.

Puck noticed but didn’t think to inform the Prince till after the fact. He did however, helpfully, know the route that Death will have taken.

So the Prince dashed off to save his Princess.

Puck used his magik,combined by energy from the shouting and applauding crowd to transport the audience to hell to witness, in relative safety, the rest of the proceedings.

We find the Princess Lucy in the clutches of a brutish Minotaur named Barry.

There is quite a bit of tooing and froing with Princess Lucy and Barry.

Including some action close to the audience.

As well as defiance from the captive Princess.

Here we also met some more powerful bad-guys; the Ghouls.

This is Cobthrottler, one of the Ghouls, portrayed here by Mark Atkinson, the leader of this fine group. Mark wasn’t at the Saturday proceedings so there aren’t many photos of him. Here seen running at the quintain.

The Ghouls performed several feats of skills at arms as well as showing us some stunt riding.

Witchypoo  can be seen here cutting neatly through a pumpkin that was resting on the top of a helmet worn by a zombie ‘volunteer’. A very neat stroke as you can see, cleanly being cut in half.

Fleshweasel missed his target with a sword so used magic (or majik probably…) to sort out the unruly plant based material.

This deeply mean n moody Ghoul also showed his riding skills. Here with a horizontal balance off saddle

And standing on his mount.

The Ghoul known as Alan, here faking being dead. Interesting behaviour for something not living.

Alan also did an upside down vertical balance.

Clearly the Ghouls are a power to be reckoned with. The heroes then arrived and there was a melee as they fought to rescue Princess Lucy.

Prince Shirley, it seemed, had come to fight with a sock on the end of a stick as his weapon of choice.

Prince Benjamin struck at the Minotaur, Barry, with a lance but failed to take the brute down. Minotaurs are tough to begin with and this one is wearing armour!

A general skirmish ensued with combat allover the arena. The action was excellent with some really well crafted scenes.

The Ghouls were bested and made a hasty retreat.

Then it was our heroes that showboated their riding skills. The next stunt drew many gasps of amazement from people around me.

Prince Benjamin controlled two horses around the field and stood on the backs of both,one foot on each horse.

551_678183075528281_1654802001_nThis trick dates from Ancient Greece though is known as Roman Riding. The crowd were rightly impressed.

As the picture on the left shows the horses are very close together and instinct makes them want to part, even though they are stable-mates.

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What came next though made people near me have a ‘He isn’t?’, ‘He is!’ conversation as they watched in awe.

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Prince Benjamin took this pair of horses towards the jump and despite many thinking he wouldn’t he jumped the fence.

He clipped the fence in one jump but made it clear each time.

Julie, Ranger of the West showed athletic skills with multiple balances on the side of her horse.

Due to the nature of fast moving horses and capturing motion sadly there aren’t many clear pictures of this available, here are the best two.

Prince Shirley entertained the audience with a reverse ride on his horse’s neck, while flapping his arms like a birdy…

He also performed clown run, a popular American stunt.

Prince Shirley’s joie de vivre certainly endeared him to the crowd.

Prince Benjamin then returned on a different horse to collect his bride-to-be but Barry pushed the horse over and captured the Prince and the Princess.

They were dragged away unceremoniously.

Prince Benjamin is led back in to the arena bound between two zombies. Cobthrottler decided this was a good time to bait the audience.

The ropes were passed to two Ghouls and they started to move apart, intending to pull Prince Benjamin in half.

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Thankfully the ropes snapped and the Prince was dragged along for a short distance but became free.

He made a break for the dungeon that Princess Lucy had been placed in. There he fought Barry.

The fight was short and Prince Benjamin was victorious. He showed of his grisly prize only to be told by Puck that despite his rowdy behaviour Barry was in fact an innocent creature who worked in a Soup Kitchen at the weekend. Prince Benjamin had trapped himself in the dungeon by killing an innocent.

Who would save the Prince and Princess now?

A lone rider appeared, who was it? Some mystery hero to save the day?

No, it was Shirley.

1451616_677446542268601_1814802550_nPuck took him to one side to check if Prince Shirley knew what he was doing. Shirley admitted he didn’t. Puck handed him a magic (or majik, he didn’t say) sword to aid him.

There was a fight and Shirley made short work of the zombies. Prince Benjamin and Princess Lucy cheered our hero on.

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Alan was a tougher opponent but after some dazzling sword play Shirley finished him off with a kiss.

Then came the evil Fleshweasel. the two were so Heroic and Demonic that they went in to slow-mo…

It was so very exciting!

Puck lamented the fact there were no white doves to release…

Free at last Prince Benjamin went to Princess Lucy but she spurned him.

Choosing instead his brother, her hero, Prince Shirley. To live happily ever after.

Puck resurrected Barry and revealed that the Minotaur had always wanted to be a Princess so paired him up with Prince Benjamin,who seemed less than keen

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After the show we went back to the stable block where the audience can meet the cast of riders and horses.

Here is a selection of fun pics that were taken:

Kelly had made some cakes for the team, she presented them to Mark on Friday. Here is Mark showing them off!

Here is my son, Saul, eating one.

They were very yummy cakes. Chocolate cup cake, chocolate fondant and a rice paper topper!

After 5

Ellis chatted to Ricky & asked for a photo with him & Barry’s head.

Then on Saturday Kelly and Ellis had a close encounter with Barry himself!

All good clean fun…

Which promptly went down hill when Charlie, who played Prince Shirley, happened along and forgot he wasn’t in character. Here with Kelly and Mike, who was Fleshweasel.

The team are all great sports as you can see, This picture made Ricky say something foolish to Kelly along the lines of ‘I bet you can’t pick me up.’

So she did.

And finally… Ellis with Charlie.

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