Touring – reviewed at Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
When I heard that Julia Donaldson’s fabulous book Zog was going to be performed as a live stage show with puppets, I thought – what a good idea. A golden star to the team who came up with the idea…
A cast of five performs the tale, they bring it to life with puppetry, playing instruments on stage and acting out each character. It’s a truly incredible feat when the talented five-some seamlessly move between playing a character, operating a puppet or playing a variety of different instruments. This innovative continuum does not break the story and keeps the flow of the tale brilliantly.
Emily Benjamin plays Princess Pearl and also performs in the ensemble. She’s entertaining and energetic to watch as she makes good use of the functional set. Robert Ginty plays Sir Gadabout and other characters in the ensemble and he demonstrates excellent comic timing. Elliot MacKenzie is Zog and he’s just the right stature and has accurate characteristics for the role. Dixie McDevitt keeps the audience participating with the rabbit puppets and also entertained overall as a member of the ensemble. Euan Wilson shines as Madame Dragon, he is the epitome of strict school ma’am and gives a very physical performance.
As we go on Zog’s journey in his quest to win a golden star from Madame Dragon at school, it’s a wonderful window into the world of a young dragon. Reception age and year one children in particular should identify with the element of school and wanting to impress and do their best in a new environment with a disciplinarian at the helm.
Having said that, my five year old lost interest on a couple of occasions and I felt that he would have been more engaged is the dragon puppets had made more appearances. I felt there was some confusion on his part as to why the puppets were there and the performers were also there dressed as dragons. Maybe one or the other would have been better? The script varies from the dialogue I know so well from the book too. There was no mention of ‘what a good idea’ really or the zig-zagging through the blue, so it was disappointing from that perspective.
As a piece of theatre it was enjoyable and beautifully thought out, however the synchronicity with the much loved book was lacking. It’s a great way to encourage the younger audience member into the theatre though.
Photo Credits: Helen Maybanks