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Dragon (Glasgow)

Physical theatre can drag on, but this is like an unspoken thought from Roald Dahl's imagination

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Dragon World Premiere NTS
© drew farrell

Unsaid words can roar like the fiercest monsters; spoken words can linger in the air like sulphur then disappear like wisps of the palest smoke. Here, in one of its most poignant and magical productions to date, the endlessly imaginative Vox Motus and the Tianjin People's Art Theatre have created a piece which makes language superfluous to human experience, transporting the audience into a world where feelings and actions are felt in the rhythms of music and the nuances of movement.

A study of loss, grief and redemption, Oliver Emanuel's Dragon is a family show which deals with some very adult themes. Tommy, a young boy from Glasgow, finds his world and his family shattered when his mother dies. Retreating to the solitude of his bedroom, he discovers a playful and endearing dragon who offers him a release which his life cannot. But such mythical beasts cannot be tamed and what was once friendly becomes a symbol for something much darker.

Vox Motus are one of the most inventive, imaginative production companies in the contemporary Scottish theatre scene. Tim Phillips' music is cinematic and emotive, raising the drama and beauty of the piece to a new plane. Jamie Harrison and Guy Bishop's puppets are so beautifully constructed that to look at them, dancing to ethereal music and gnashing jaws in the wind, is to feel like a child again. You will believe that a plastic bag and a fan have spent six weeks in a rehearsal room thinking about how best to play a flying serpent.

Olivier Award winning polythene aside, the production is held by some clever and endearing human performances (imagine!). Indeed, it is difficult to single out individuals, all demonstrating an excellence in movement, mime and puppetry. But it is our hero, Scott Miller, who finds himself in the spotlight, wrangling the twin evils of vulnerability and aggression as the show's grieving protagonist, Tommy.

Physical theatre can drag on, and there are a few slow moments in this eighty minute show which hold it back from perfection. Nonetheless, this a magical production which appeals and works on so many emotional and intellectual levels. Dragon is like something from the edge of Roald Dahl's subconscious, a fanciful and bewitching show which strikes at the soul and at the mind.