REVIEW: Dragon, National Theatre of Scotland, Traverse Theatre


Young Tommy seems to be coping after the untimely death of his mother. Whilst his sister throws herself into her passion for swimming and his grief-stricken father hides himself away, Tommy carries on with his everyday life. Apart, of course, from those special, secretive times he spends in the company of the Dragon

Directed by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison of Vox Motus, Oliver Emanuel’s wordless piece is a poignant and potent examination of grief which quickly casts its spell over the audience. A co-production between Vox Motus, National Theatre of Scotland and the Tianjin People’s Art Theatre, Tommy’s emotional journey is represented through mime, puppetry and some excellent and impressive stagecraft.

Thus doors revolve, school desks appear out of the darkness and the seven-strong cast conjure up locations from a brilliantly-realised swimming pool to a play park where the local youths gather and strut.

And then there is the dragon. Or rather dragons. With the Chinese influence obvious in the design and fluid movements of the puppets, Tommy’s dragon is portrayed as an evolving series of beasts. At first small and playful, it soon becomes something larger and more sinister. Towards the climax, it is a dark, all-encompassing monster, driving Tommy to acts he is not fully in control of.

As a metaphor, this has a strong yet understated power. And as physical presences on stage, the creations are equally impressive, causing several gasps from the young audience at the Traverse as wings beat, smoke billows forth and fiery eyes glow in the darkness.

But, at its core, Dragon is a human tale. And, through a strong central performance from Scott Miller as Tommy, with able support from Zhang Kai, Gavin Jon Wright and Martin McCormick in particular, it certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front either.

Visually alluring and cleverly designed, Dragon is complemented by the physicality and choreography of its cast, creating a beast which breathes life into a captivating & magical modern fairytale which — without words — speaks to us all.

Dragon is at the Traverse until Sat 2 Nov. Further information and tickets are available on the Traverse website

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