Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture books are frequent fixtures in the Museum household, and Zog is one of our favourites. In the book, Zog is an accident-prone dragon at Madame Dragon’s school who is desperate to earn a gold star. He learns ‘all the things that dragons need to know’ – how to fly, breathe fire, and capturing princesses. Fortunately wanabee doctor Princess Pearl is at hand to treat the ensuing injuries, and to help him get that coveted star. And when Sir Gadabout the Knight tries to ‘rescue’ the Princess, he learns how Pearl has very different ideas about her future. It’s a funny book which challenges stereotypes and is all about following your dreams, and now Zog Live has brought it to the stage.
The stage adaptation by Freckle Productions is very different to the storybook, although no less uplifting. It adds new sections, dialogue and songs, and changes the emphasis of the story. Here Zog becomes barely more important to the story than the two other cheeky school dragons. Instead it’s Princess Pearl who takes centre stage, refusing to wear a frilly dress and rescuing herself from imprisonment. Her captor? Madam Gadabout, who is now the villain of the story, stripping her pupils of their gold stars.
The beautiful puppets are a highlight of the show, and it’s easy to follow when the actors are playing the dragons themselves, as their costumes match the puppets. Other animal puppets appear from time to time, helping drive the narrative along and adding humour. Our personal highlight was when the dragons learn to fly. It’s worth getting aisle seats, as it was a real moment of wonder having Zog ‘fly’ over our heads.
Overall it’s a lively and energetic show with plenty of chance for audience participation, panto style. The dragons’ bawdy humour will tickle any kid who likes a fart joke. The live folk-style songs, accompanied by guitar, ukulele, accordion or double bass, are unfortunately not that memorable, and the sketch with the mirror ‘reflection’ of Sir Gadabout is indulgently long. But five year old Museum Girl remained spellbound throughout the hour long show. There was no running around and banging of seats, unlike at the cinema. The adorable soft toy Zog we bought after the show came with us on holiday, as did the storybook. In fact, Museum Girl found the whole experience so inspiring that she now wants to be a ‘theatre showoff’ when she’s older. Here’s to following your dreams, Princess Pearl style.
Zog Live runs at Cadogan Hall until 25 August 2019, with tickets starting at £18. For more information, visit http://zoglive.com/
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