Published in the Guardian
Seen at Eden Court, Inverness
THE THREE framing arches of Jamie Harrison's set have a touch of the Looney Tunes logo
about them. And there's a cartoon playfulness in the way he makes two
spinning wheels suggest a bicycle, a fridge door suggest a kitchen, and a
table-top globe suggest a geography lesson. But behind the clever
transformations lies a darker theme. Dragon, a collaboration between Vox
Motus, the National Theatre of Scotland and Tianjin People's Art
Theatre, is no Bugs Bunny caper but a serious study of emotional
inarticulacy after a traumatic loss.
The premise is a familiar one. Scott Miller's Tommy is a
teenager whose mother has died. His father sinks into a depression
before finding new love with the next-door neighbour, while his
classmates subject him to a campaign of low-level bullying.
elevates the play into something more than a commonplace story of
adolescent alienation is its presentation. That Oliver Emanuel's script
is without language is an entertaining novelty, one that reaps dividends
when Tommy finally finds his voice, but the real power of the show is
in the way it manifests the boy's inner turmoil.
From the moment
the lamp-post outside his bedroom window reshapes itself into the head
of a dragon, he finds his emotional state reflected by a series of
serpentine monsters. At turns these creatures are protective, aggressive
and as reassuring as one of Philip Pullman's daemons
. Sometimes, they are cute and threatening at once, especially when the
excellent orchestral score by Tim Phillips offers us music-box
sweetness and fearful roaring at the same time.
production, directed by Candice Edmunds together with Harrison, is not
just a masterpiece of stage management, but a subtle examination of the
way we can all rationalise our most primal emotions by slaying our
dragons one by one.
© Mark Fisher 2013
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