The People’s Theatre Company bring us a musical play based on the book by Steven Lee, ‘Don’t Dribble on the Dragon’.
I entered the theatre, as a solitary reviewer, to be greeted by an atmosphere of excited and expectant families and children’s groups. The air was full of chattering voices, rustling sweet packets and children’s party music over the PA system. The stage was set like a child’s bedroom but with oversized old-fashioned wooden blocks, painted with the letters of the alphabet. The oval screen, in the centre of the stage, has a projection of shelves and music posters. As the lights go down we hear the sound of the Happy Birthday song being sung off-stage.
What follows is a father telling a story to his daughter about when he was young. The daughter is having trouble dealing with her younger brother. So her dad, Tom, played by James Mitchell, tells the story of when he was a toddler, looking up to his older brother Jack, played by Steven Lee and how they fell out due to Tom’s dribbling problem. But they had a special friend, a dragon, played by Kate Powell, who had magical powers and she tries to mend the broken relationship.
From the very beginning the audience are included in the story, with the actors talking directly to the children, much like the traditions of a pantomime. This is a lovely adaptation of the story by Steven Lee with songs, audience participation and magic, designed by the late, great Paul Daniels. It was the first magic trick, performed by James Mitchell that really caught the imagination of the children I could see and hear. James magically took a lightbulb out of a lamp, it stayed lit and he dropped it into a paper bag, he then continued to produce lightbulbs from the air. I heard a child say in wonder, “Where is he getting all those stars from?”
Overall, the story is light-hearted and engaging, dealing with the struggles of growing up. I particularly liked the idea that wishes don’t come for free, but that one has to give up something in order for them to come true - a really useful premise for children to recognise their need to grow up; like when Jack had to give up his dragon, it had echoes of Toy Story for me, when Andy had to finally give away his toys. There was one scary moment in the story, when Tom and the dragon had to go into the creepy basement, but that was easily remedied by squeezing the arm of an appropriate adult - I coped alone!
I thoroughly enjoyed the show and would highly recommend it to families with primary-aged children. An added bonus is that copies of the book are on sale after the performance with the author himself, Steven Lee, signed copies. This is a marvelous, magical, musical show and anything thing that gets children reading gets my seal of approval.
Reviewer: Alan Harbottle
Reviewed: 31st May 2016