Don’t Dribble on the Dragon is a brand new family show based on a new book from children’s author Steven Lee, adapted by the People’s Theatre Company, which has also bought his better-known How the Koala Learned to Hug to the stage. And it’s a bit of a mixed bag for company and audience alike, at this stage. A panto-style energy aims to keep the crowd engaged and energised, and this is twinned with refreshingly non-patronising storytelling, and decent songs.
When a young girl stomps up to her bedroom in frustration with her younger brother, it prompts her kindly dad to tell a story of his own childhood, and the lengths he went to for his older brother’s approval and friendship. As a teething baby, his copious dribbling was a source of frustration and annoyance for the older, cooler Jack. But there was common ground to be found in the fun to be had with their imaginary friend, a toy dragon who comes to life and plays with them.
Adult actors play the children’s roles, and thanks to the quality of the script and song lyrics, this works well enough for the most part. My +1, the 18-month-old, was a tad too young for the show officially (it is marketed to the over twos), but lasted a good 40 minutes through the 55 minute show without kicking up much of a fuss. Dribbled all the way through himself, though, so maybe there was just a resonance with the subject matter. There’s a concern we may be entering the ‘HIYA GANG!!!’ phase of call-and-response audience participation already – but that’s a fear to confront at another time.
Don’t Dribble on the Dragon’s USP is that magic for the show was designed by none other than the late Paul Daniels, and with such a claim behind it, it is a bit of a shame that it doesn’t really pop as much as a production like this either promises or deserves. An opening illusion, where dad Tom appears to pluck lights out of the air and store them in a paper bag, is really lovely and hints at some of the whimsy the show should have been capable of; the rest – an oversized card trick and levitating ball illusion among them – were a tad underwhelming.
A projector screen backdrop, again, was largely underused, and a weapon in the theatrical arsenal that could have had much better effect. However, the show has promise, and good performances from the cast of three and some quality musical numbers kept things ticking over nicely.