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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Dragon, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Seen at Eden Court, Inverness
Four stars
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.

What 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.

The beguiling 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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