Based on a short story by children’s author Kenneth Grahame,
As every good story for children tends to do, The Reluctant Dragon offers several layers of meaning.
Young company Not Cricket Productions stages a lovely play through storytelling, music, singing and puppetry. The puppet used for the dragon delights the children in the audience throughout the performance, but its simplicity charms the adults as well. The show is committed to creating a magical, encompassing fairy tale for the children’s consumption. The actor animating the dragon never shows himself and instead the dragon invites children on stage at the end of the show to stroke it and be photographed with it. The other, visible performers do an equally admirable job – Harry Ward’s guitar playing is lovely, as is the singing from the rest of the cast. Emily Thane as the mother is especially funny, and Leigh as the brave protagonist presents a clever role model.
As every good story for children tends to do, The Reluctant Dragon offers several layers of meaning. It can be read simply as the story of a determined girl and her friendship with an unusually lazy, poetry-loving dragon, but it can also be read as a metaphor about overcoming prejudice and fighting for the recognition of diversity. The show does not quite do justice to this second interpretation however. The villagers’ cruelty towards the dragon and the latter’s response to them and to self-righteous Saint George could be explored more in depth, as could the protagonist’s struggle to give the dragon credit. This could make the show that little more compelling, especially as the last ten minutes or so do not seem to add much to the narrative, and in fact water down the excitement of the previous scenes.
However, Not Cricket Productions brings to life a sweet, funny show that entertains young children and teaches them a useful lesson. If you have children, take them to this!