Updated: May 30, 2021
Based on the book by Julia Donaldson & Alex Scheffler, adapted and directed
by Mike Shepherd, music and lyrics by Johnny Flynn
Rose Theatre Kingston & Freckle Productions
Chester Storyhouse 5 April 2019 - 7 April 2019; The Lowry, 7 June 2019 - 9 June 2019.
Making a timely debut on the stage following a beautifully-adapted and well-received television appearance at Christmas is Zog - the well meaning if clumsy dragon featured in Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s best-selling children’s book (disclaimer - we are big Zog fans in our house!)
Large in size and keen in nature, Zog is eager to win a golden star at Madam Dragon’s school - where dragons learn all the things dragons need to know. Zog tries very hard as he bumps, burns and roars his way through school - but luckily plucky Princess Pearl patches him up ready to face his biggest challenge yet, a duel with Sir Gadabout the Great!
Zog has a really interesting creative team. Freckle Productions has form when it comes to successfully bringing the work of Donaldson and Scheffler’s books to the stage, having produced Stick Man (which we saw and loved) and Tiddler, among others.
Kneehigh founder and artistic director Mike Shepherd adapts and directs, with set and costume design by Katie Sykes. The design is really effective - and nicely references Scheffler’s beautiful illustrations. Clever and expressive puppets by Lyndie Wright mix with Sykes' witty shabby-chic costumes, with a functional scaffolding rig as a backdrop.
The show has an interesting original folk score by award-winning singer-songwriter Johnny Flynn, but it admittedly lacks a winning earworm like Stick Man or What the Ladybird Heard.
A talented, humorous and likeable cast of five (Emily Benjamin, Robert Ginty, Elliot Mackenzie, Dixie McDevitt and Euan Wilson) portray multiple characters, as well as a fantastic mix of instruments, including banjo, guitar, double bass and drums.
This new stage production will no doubt appeal to fans of previous book-to-stage adaptations of Donaldson and Scheffler’s work, like The Gruffalo and Stick Man. But those who expect a faithful retelling of the book might go away a little disappointed. There is barely any of Donaldson’s beautifully-balanced language at all, just snippets here and there. It makes you wonder what the point is of adapting the book if you’re not going to include the much-loved language.
The design is really effective, and nicely references Scheffler’s beautiful illustrations, but all things considered I’d have preferred less interpretive movement and a bit more of the Zog I love.
It wasn’t quite Donaldson and Scheffler’s Zog for us, but I applaud any attempt to make intelligent and original theatre for children, and there is lots to enjoy - evident from the engaged response from the small audience members.
The show returns to the North West with a Lowry visit in June. By all means head to dragon school and make up your own mind.
For more information visit www.zoglive.com