Review: Dragon

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The definition of storytelling, Dragon by Ooook! Productions is a tale that transports you to mystical and magical times but also keeps modern and contemporary themes. Opening in a small town, Sir Lancelot (Ben Rook), arrives after his travels and soon learns that this town is subject to sacrificing a person each year to a dragon that watches over them. Determined to kill the beast and save this year’s subject Elsa (Alysia Orbell), Lancelot sets out to do just so. Complete with a corrupt Governor (Alice Lim) and controlled villagers, Dragon may appear as a tale but in fact, it subtly raises political and philosophical questions and is presented in a cohesive and impressive way by the cast and crew.

Opening in a family home Lancelot has stumbled upon, a Cat (Ella Maurici) that begins to tell him the history of the town. Essentially, she acts as an indirect narrator, setting the scene for both Lancelot and the audience. Maurici performs as Cat incredibly well. Her movements are cat-like and her meows are incredibly convincing! As a lovable character, any time she takes to the stage it is filled with joy! Rook plays a classic hero as Lancelot and delivers his brave disposition fantastically, particularly in his strongly performed monologues. As she speaks with Lancelot it becomes clear inherently quickly that both performers have fantastic diction, and this continues along with the rest of the cast. It is a pleasure to follow the story as all performers speak clearly and crisply, and not a word is lost between them.

Each character is distinctly different, and all have attributes that are appropriate for their given circumstances

Also similar to all performers is their clear understanding of their characters, which comes across in their performance. Each character is distinctly different, and all have attributes that are appropriate for their given circumstances. Lim plays the Governor fantastically. As an extremely corrupt ruler, Lim adds comedy to the play, portraying the leader as dramatic and controlling. Her voice control and ability to vary pace and pitch create some wonderfully funny moments. Even though comic, she does strike a sense of fear in the audience. This is wonderfully picked up by the townspeople who react in fright to her orders. The Dragon is played by three different performers Emma Henderson, and Nico Chambers, as it has three different heads. Henderson, Sykes and Chambers brilliantly play each head as if it had a new personality adding many dimensions to this character. Orbell, playing Elsa whom Lancelot falls in love with, plays her character gently but firmly, in an incredibly nuanced performance.  Each character is played superbly but at times it could’ve been nice to have more energy in the play. Some scenes lack an energetic flow and at times pauses were held a little too long.

Set in Caemdon hall with a traditional large proscenium arch stage, the creative and production team decided to create a more intimate space for their performance. The entire auditorium and stage were confined to the raised stage at the front of the hall. This is an excellent decision. The newly created end-on stage complimented the plot wonderfully, as it fittingly came across as a storytelling arena, dotted with tables, chairs and a hat stand in the second half! The stage was lit in harsh white light which does make it easy to see, but at times was a little too intense. There were also sound effects to create the dragon’s roar and wings flapping in the wind, however, it was a little hard initially to decipher what sound they were trying to represent. As they repeated, it did become clear. There are a high number of props and each help craft our understanding of the story. In moments of audience interaction, signs are held up with words for us to repeat. Beautifully scribed, they essentially bring us back to the key undertones of the play as they are used by the corrupt Governor to ensure there is applause at his wedding, injecting terror and mandatory demands of dictatorship into the audience.

The entire auditorium and stage were confined to the raised stage at the front of the hall. This is an excellent decision

Overall, Dragon captures political views that are woven into a traditional mythological narrative. The play takes these moments of fantasy and twists them to ensure they are relevant to the modern day. It is a funny and important watch, brought together by a devoted cast and crew.

Image credit: Ooook! Productions

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