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Dragon Fever — Review

On Tuesday 30 January, Dragon Fever, put on by Mermaids, became the first student-written play to be performed at the Byre Theatre. Originally a Spanish novel by director Albert Surinach I Campos, it was then translated and adapted for the stage. Produced by Alex Richardson and Riccardo Petrachi, the plot is an ambitious cross between an Agatha Christie mystery and Tolkien’s The Hobbit; a story of nine strangers on a quest to slay a dragon, that unfolds into a murder mystery full of riddles, twists, and love affairs.

Undeniably, one of the play’s largest merits was the impressive array of props and costumes, which lent themselves to creating an immersive and convincing atmosphere of high fantasy. Particularly remarkable was the ornate puppet of a three-headed tiger, as well as an elaborate suit of armour of the character of Urk. The production team deserves praise for its clear dedication. 

The characters Nilvana, a powerful and cynical witch, and Rigeon, whose persona lies somewhere between a Don Quixote and Don Juan-like figure, played by Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and Callum Wardman-Browne respectively, gave consistent performances throughout. Wardman-Browne’s abilities shone through in comedic timing and delivery, while Mountbatten-Windsor displayed impressive physicality and gave a compelling performance. Standout performances came from Rupert Carter and Felix Da Silva-Clamp as Mr Owl and Grant, both of whom had plenty of stage presence and performed convincingly, despite the over-the-top natures of their characters.

However, characterisation was one of the play’s weakest aspects. The closest thing to an original character was Da Silva-Clamp’s Grant, an impressionable and naive young squire that charmed the audience. Every other character was some rendition of an archetype or cliché, while more unique minor characters were not given enough stage time or importance in the plot. Each character was essentially one-note. Instead of genuine emotion being written into characters, they instead resorted to excessive swearing and contrived dialogue.

Moreover, the play sacrificed dramatic tension for comedy and shock value, to the extent that the second act saw a string of plot twists, each meant to get a reaction out of the audience, but instead resulting in an excessively complicated narrative. Here is one of the play’s biggest problems — it asks too much of its audience. Theatregoers are expected to keep up with a plethora of plot-lines, cliffhangers, romances, and betrayals, to the extent that, by the end of the show, the audience was more entertained by the amount of onstage slip-ups than the narrative itself.

The first act of the show, though fairly well staged with enjoyable performances, grew repetitive, each scene resembling the other, almost always ending on a one-liner and fading to black. The second act, though it presented an increasingly convoluted plot, was undoubtedly more comedic, with lines such as ‘my desires are pretty primal right now’ providing hearty laughs for the audience. One got the sense that the actors resigned themselves to the bizarre nature of the storyline, embracing the humour and absurdity of the plot, with certain actors breaking character as the show drew to a close. Highlighting the script’s satire and comedy was certainly refreshing and enjoyable for the audience.

This is a show with the makings of an entertaining play — with a unique story, exceptional props and costumes, a generally high production value, and fairly convincing performances from actors. But Dragon Fever proves, above all, how important writing and a good script are to a play. The most basic part of any story is plot, and Dragon Fever’s is built on air. There is potential in the writing, and moments of genuinely impressive dialogue, especially seen in certain interactions between Iha Jha’s Xao and the character of Grant, but these are overshadowed by simplistic jokes and plot twists.

At the end of the day, Dragon Fever is a play which is at its best in moments when it embraces the lightheartedness of its narrative. Though it is often comedic and outlandish, it is most certainly memorable.

Photo by Fabian Thies

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urk... Urk... URK!!!


This play would be great to watch obliteratingly high

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