4 stars ****
Royal Lyceum Theatre
WITHOUT FANFARE – but with a terrific recorded musical score by composer Tim Phillips – Friday’s opening performance of Dragon at the Lyceum Theatre marked a significant turning-point in the relationship between Scottish theatre and the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival, as new director Fergus Linehan’s opens up the festival’s international stage to top-fight Scottish-made shows that have already proven their worth at home. The evening gained an edge of poignancy, too, from the news of the horrific fire and explosions earlier on Friday in Tianjin, China, the home city of the People’s Art Theatre which, with young Glasgow-based company Vox Motus, and the National Theatre of Scotland, is one of the co-producers of Dragon.
Yet the show – a wordless and visually stunning 70-minute drama by Oliver Emanuel for younger and older audiences, about a teenage boy’s struggle to deal with the death of his mother – rose magnificently to the demands of the occasion. In Jamie Harrison’s astonishing design – part domestic grunge, part wild urban surrealism – the series of ever-larger and more dazzling dragons that represent the boy’s unspoken, raging grief swoop and glide through all the ordinary locations of his life, realised in a domestic landscape constantly created and recreated by the cast of seven, using an ever-shifting series of simple props; Scott Miller’s performance as the hero, Tommy, is as touching as it was when the show was first seen in Glasgow in 2013.
And in the end, as Martin McCormick – in the role of Dad – recovers from his own grief enough to embrace his boy and help him banish his demons, love finally triumphs over anger and sadness; with a little help from the lovely Yan Tao as Tommy’s possible girlfriend, waiting for him at the swing-park, when the tempest of his grief finally passes.
EIF p. 22