“Treat yourself to Ooook!’s ‘Dragon!’ for a night of hilarity”
Coming together over three weeks in February, the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in Ooook!’s production of ‘Dragon!’ is palpable from the moment you walk into the intimate venue. Behind the curtain in Hilde Bede’s Caedmon hall, the audience is welcomed into what initially feels like a dragon’s den. However, it reveals itself as the chaotic, hilarious imagination of co-directors Laura Eichelmann and Matilda Bell.
‘Dragon!’ was initially published in Russian, and Co-Translators Jay Figg and Nata Javelina did a spectacular job maintaining (and potentially enhancing) the play’s comic elements and contemporary relevance. Translating comedy cross-culturally can be a difficult task, but Figg and Javelina managed to come up with a script that had the audience doubling over in laughter.
The humorous nature of the text was well conveyed through co-directors Eichelmann and Bells’ dynamic blocking, wherein characters rarely stood still, and actors displayed strong physical comedic talents. There is no better example of this than The Governor, played by Alice Lim. Lim took full advantage of every opportunity presented to her, from running around in a straight jacket—to cowering in the corner. She never failed to light up the stage with her energy and use of negative space. Lim’s performance would have only been further enhanced by a slightly slower line delivery, allowing the jokes to sink into the audience entirely.
The ‘dragon!’ was divided between three actors who brought an individual charm and edge to the beast, keeping the allure alive. Ben Rook’s comedic timing as Lancelot was a play highlight. He hit every joke on the head and masterfully balanced the profound moments with the comic. However, the lack of eye contact with Lancelot’s love interest, Elsa, played by Alysia Orbell, was off-putting, even for a character described as a ‘socially awkward knight’. Furthermore, Megan Ratcliffe as Henry was perhaps the most enjoyable performance, as Ratcliffe appeared to be the most confident actor on the stage.
The lighting was used as an effective narrative tool throughout the show. Highlights include the dragon flying overhead and blocking out the sun. The stage went black and flashed blue, green and red. Another good use of lighting was a dramatic spotlight on Lancelot during his monologue, which conveyed a level of grandeur deserving of the character in the moment.
Sound was a vital piece of the production as well. It was used in characterising the dragon and played an essential part in staging the battle sequence. The only way the sound design could have been improved would have been by turning it down when the actors were speaking, as it was sometimes difficult to hear.
Despite the light-heartedness of the production, it still managed to convey an unmistakable political message, summed up in a quote from Lancelot ‘how can I save these people, without becoming a dragon myself?’. The ability to manage this message with the comic nature of the play displays the talent of everyone involved.
Treat yourself to Ooook!’s ‘Dragon!’ for a night of hilarity.
By Nina Butterfield and Nuno Gaspar
Dragon is performing in Caedmon Hall in Hilde Bede until the 4th March
Photo Credits: Ooook!