Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Merlin’s dragon is a fantastic interactive children’s show (aimed at 5 – 12 year olds) where we meet Merlin and Sir Lancelot, an evil Knight, a warm hearted Dragon, a fire bolt shooting dragon slayer, Nimue, Lady of the Lake as well as a beautiful princess and a gentle monk with a delicate stomach. Children are invited to join in at lots of opportunities to search for clues, find hidden treasure, read runes, practice battle skills and weave magic spells as the audience are taken through a world of Old Magic and join our brave heroes on their quest to restore balance to the earth.
This show is gentle and accessible yet manages to be action packed full of adventure and magic to satisfy even my superhero, Lego building, kick boxing 10 year old, whilst still being captivating to a younger audience. The way in which the cast encourage participation is simple, gentle and empowering – particularly for more shy children or those who have never gone up on stage before. My son was up this year joining in the battle practice with our story’s hero and loved the chance to show off his jousting skills.
This show is interactive and gives multiple opportunities for children to take part, I lost count of how many times we heard the magic words "Who wants to help me?", and a few children leapt at the chance more than once. What was lovely was that even those too shy to go down could still take part from their seats and if the adults were feeling left out they got to join in too with their own (toy) battle axes and magic spells.
The story itself held the audience throughout, evoking magical realms and battles between good and evil. There is a friendly dragon who smiles at the princess’s fear of him and reminds her that not everything you hear is true. The props and elegant graceful movements of Kieron Riddell used to create our flying friend are just lovely and captivate the children. Our warrior James Cowden is strong, brave and bold but gently takes the hands of keen children to practice their ‘battle’ skills on stage – again the atmosphere is calm and steady and lets the interaction feel safe and fun. There are comedy moments too to lighten the story although it is so nicely paced and focused on the magical mood that it doesn’t ever feel dark. The language used throughout is beautifully expressive, mirrored by flowing movements of the cast that accentuate the magical era in which this story is set. The story is at its strongest when our friends bravely join forces to face the evil Nimue, Lady of the lake (convincingly played by Carly Harding) who tries to drown Avalon with her powerful spells and the audience joins in with powerful magic to stop her. What makes this show outstanding is the commitment to both the interactive nature of the production as well as the family friendly format making this theatre experience for children unique in its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
There is a lovely feeling of community created here, that we are part of the story not just observers and this is what makes this professional show so good; that the props, the language, the warmth , skills and versatility of the cast (my son couldn’t believe it was just three performers playing all the characters), the well paced delivery, the evocative mood and intelligent lighting and simple low tech special effects, its ability to appeal to a wide age range, and the ability of the performers to continue with the flow of the story whilst still offering lots of audience interaction together makes this show value for money and immersive children’s theatre at its absolute best. A tribute to the hard work of this company and the vision and commitment of Rachel King.