Any high hopes of a pleasurable experience are dashed early on when Gods and Monsters’ adaptation of the Polish folk story The Wawel Dragon begins with a period of jaunty, migraine-inducing repetitive music. Ostentatiously exploiting the rip-roaring success of Disney’s Frozen franchise, the show definitely panders to its youngest audience, make no mistake.
The adaptation takes some liberties with the original tale and few characters seem original. That said, the addition of a creepy anthropomorphic servant and a disco-dancing clockwork sheep gangster seemed to be crowd favourites. The play also deserves credit as a good groundwork introduction to an historical cultural tale, and it is good to see lesser-known Polish folklore performed on British stages in these tumultuous post-Brexit times.
However, subliminal innuendo – no doubt intended to appease bored parents – sits uneasily with the more childish jokes and gags, which tend to go down better with the children fully absorbed by the play and its audience interaction segments. At times, the dialogue by writers Phil Wilmott and Nastazja Domaradzka is more cringeworthy than humorous: “Hello, Grandpa, would you like a face full of wolf slobber?” is a case in point. But – if nothing else – parents can enjoy ticking off the similarities to and references to Frozen.
The performers sing and dance well, though there are some issues with enunciation – especially when different accents are used for different characters by the multi-rolling ensemble, and this is exacerbated by the use of masks and puppetry. There were some sound and microphone issues too, though fortunately these will have been easily rectified.
The song and dance numbers certainly livened up the play, but could do with more refinement (in the opening sequence, a cast member was nearly hit in the face). The pick of the cast is definitely Rueven Gershon who is a greatly humorous inclusion as an old Major.
There is no doubt that the plot is rather exciting for children; unfortunately this is not always matched in the design – costumes were mostly plain, the set basic – and, for this almost-pantomime play, exciting elements other than the plot are necessary to captivate the young audience.
If a sickeningly happy ending – capped off with the vanquishing of the mythological baddie, and the inevitable pairing off of four different heteronormative couples – is too much, I would urge parents to take full advantage of the drink stalls surrounding the performance space.
The Wawel Dragon is playing at The Scoop until September 25.