After what seems like an eternity of pandemic life and staring endlessly at the same four walls, it was a relief to finally escape to The Dukes to experience some live theatre; something a Zoom performance afflicted by a myriad of technical difficulties just can’t replicate no matter how hard it tries. When Another Dragon Roars, written and directed by award-winning children’s writer Kevin Dyer, was certainly enough to illustrate this difference. No buffering. No lapses in audio. No bad Wi-Fi getting in the way. No awkward silence between the lines where you would otherwise find a laughing audience. But more than that, Dyer’s play succeeds in being something anyone with kids or younger siblings will no doubt be able to enjoy.
A collaboration between children’s theatre company Petite Ullaloom and Altered Scales, a theatre company specialising in puppetry and visual storytelling, When Another Dragon Roars is a children’s show bursting with energy and creativity and is the perfect entertainment for young kids sick of being cooped up all day. It’s a simple, accessible show following Alfie (played by Austin Mitchel-Hewitt, founder of Altered Scale) and his unnamed Mum (played by Lucy Fiori, co-founder of Petite Ullaloom) on a woodland camping trip as they tell various dragon-related stories with the aid of original music, props, and various forms of puppetry. Both Alfie and his Mum tell their own original dragon story, while also telling one from France, one from Borneo and, one from China.
The set (painstakingly crafted by Mitchel-Hewitt & co.) presents a woodland in the style of an illustrated children’s storybook, which works perfectly for a show that is, in essence, a storybook come to life through theatre, allowing the stories to come off of the page and immerse young audiences in an interactive and intermedial performance that is bound to hold their attention. This theatrical storybook is realised through both the staging and the performances. The lighting is expertly designed to cater to children, making use of simple and effective coloured lights that reflect the mood of the scene, such as red lighting for anger and green lighting for calm. And the most visually striking feature has to be the use of both shadow puppets, handheld puppets, and props to bring the dragons to life.
Fiori and Mitchel-Hewitt know how to perform for young children expertly, imbuing every gesture, movement, and word with an animated quality straight out of a cartoon. But their dedication to providing a fun and calming experience for this demographic doesn’t end there, as they end each show with a Q&A and provide everyone with a postcard with a link to the show’s website, which is replete with breathing and mindfulness exercises simple enough for kids to understand. If you know a young child eager for a day out, then When Another Dragon Roars fits the bill perfectly. And more than anything, a return to live theatre after an agonisingly long absence is too good to pass up.