Unlike George I have been a little behind in tilting at dragons. Or writing theatre reviews. This will change. Starting now.
St George and the Dragon at the National Theatre is a little too early for the panto season, but that is where it should lie. This over bloated allegorical tale is a cross between the Ambridge Xmas Special and the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. Its saving grace is that the intentional jokes in a hopeless script are funny. The rest of the dialogue is jaw-droppingly bewildering and, therefore, often unintentionally funny.
But at no point did I want to leave. Surprisingly.
This is a tale about how progress is the saviour which can release us from our demons (or dragons in this case). Until it isn’t and we have to tear down the progress we have made. I think.
Some people say it’s one can read across to Brexit. Europe good then Europe bad. If so, fine by me because (no plot spoiler – it’s too predictable) the remainers win. But it is too incoherent to have a political message even in today’s more complicated geopolitics.
Rae Smith’s set design brought little England to the National’s revolving stage in an obvious homage to Danny Boyle’s industrial and industrious set in the Olympic stadium. Zip wires and pyrotechnics brought the dragon to full panto realisation – Puff rather than Smaug – rather than human form which mostly represented the collective ills of the nation. Julian Bleach starred as the rather camp personification of the dragon. Think Alan Rickman, Prince of Thieves.
The rest of the cast do a variable but solid job of turning the author’s words into a play. The only standout performance was from the child playing, er, the child throughout. It maybe that the cast were never really clear whether they were supposed to be playing for laughs. But it was the laughs I liked the best.
Should you go and see it? It’s billed as an epic folk tale for the modern age which is a load of pretentious old bollocks. But it is a bit amusing, occasionally wryly so and occasionally laugh out loud funny. It’s unlikely you will hate it and I’d be surprised if you loved it. But I’m not disappointed I went.