Freckle Productions’ new theatre adaptation of Zog is back in 2023 and likely coming to a theatre near you. We took a trip to the Wycombe Swan to watch the press showing and bring you The Daily Mumtra’s Zog Theatre Review. This post contains an affiliate link
We’ve seen a fair few Julia Donaldson adaptations of late. Stick Man, Room on the Broom, The Smartest Giant in town and Tiddler and other terrific tales have all played London in recent months much to the delight of my boys aged 7, 5 and 4 . As much as they have enjoyed each show I was worried the winning formula of rhyming prose, puppetry and impressively simplistic staging might start to lose its novelty. No chance – this magical production of Zog is their new undisputed favourite!
‘Now that you’ve been shown, you can practise on your own!’
Zog is the story of an eager, albeit accident-prone, dragon and his rite of passage through dragon school. Under the watchful direction of Madame dragon we see the keen student learn to fly, roar, breathe fire and tackle his biggest challenge – to capture a princess and fight a knight.
Zog may not be a natural when it comes to these defining dragon skills but through determination he proves he can achieve his ultimate goal of getting a gold star. However the young dragon would not succeed without a special friendship. In the plucky Princess Pearl, Zog finds a loyal friend who dreams of being a doctor and escaping the frivolities of Princess life.
Freckle productions, the creative team behind box office hit Stick man and Tiddler, are veteran ‘theatrical doer uppers’ of Donaldson’s work. Zog has all the usual delicious ingredients we come to expect from Freckle but I would suggest that this show feels different to the others .
With a slightly bigger star cast of five, the show seems to pack an immediately bigger punch. Also the brilliant score by Joe Stilgoe echoes a musical theatre style, a step away from the characteristic folk/Jazz soundtracks of Freckles’ other shows.
Princess pearl played by Lois Glenister gives a standout performance with lingering vibrato vocals and a convincing little girl physicality.
I also loved the characterisation of Sir Gadabout (Ben locke), the ‘Tim nice but dim’ knight who as it turns out would rather foxtrot than fight. This whimsical and flighty depiction of Sir Gadabout makes his subsequent ‘drop of a hat’ decision to be a doctor with Pearl all the more believable and his character more endearing than the book allows.
Of course for my boys the firm favourite was Danny Hendrix as Zog. The show conveys some important themes to its younger audience and Hendrix’s childlike transparency is central to this. The importance of resolve (try, try and try again), good things are worth waiting for (poor zog only gets a golden star right at the end), the necessity of friendship and the pursuit of one’s dreams are all relayed.
The feminist plight of Princess Pearl also underpins the value of education, experience and skill over idly ‘sitting pretty’. Lots to unpack on the train ride home!
Puppet designer Lyndie Wright further delights with her realisations of Axel Scheffler’s much-loved Zog and friends. Attached to large poles and manipulated by the cast of actor-puppeteers the dragons appear to ‘Zig Zag through the blue’ before hurtling back to earth to be re-embodied by the actors.
Overall this was a performance of West End calibre with a slick score and show stopping numbers that ultimately had the audience on its feet and dancing in the aisles.
Beg, Borrow or steal…this is one Julia Donaldson show not to be missed! Expect audience participation, tongue twisters, fire breathing and more in this sure to be smash-hit stage adaptation. A roaring success for it’s young audience fanbase with an occasional nod of naughtiness to their parents.
Is ‘Zog’ Coming to London?
Zog live is playing up and down the country throughout Spring and Summer 2023, opening at The Capitol, Horsham on Friday 10 February and culminating in a month-long Summer Season at The Lowry, Salford from Thursday 3 August. The unmistakeable orange dragon will grace London’s Arts Depot (West Finchley) from 3rd-5th March and The Rose Theatre, Kingston 12th-16th July.
What age is Zog Live recommended for?
The Show lasts for 1 hour without interval and held each child’s attention with ease. It is a family show and in my opinion is particularly suitable for ages 3+
Cast Seen: Danny Hendrix, Lois Glenister, Ben Locke, Louise Grayford, Eliza Waters
Director _ Emma Kilbey
Puppet Design – Lyndie Wright
Design – Katie Sykes
Lighting – Ric Mountjoy
Songs written by Joe Stilgoe
Musical Direction – Bobby Delaney
Orchestration – Paul Herbert
Where can I watch the Film Adaptation of ‘Zog’?
Love Zog? Magic Light Pictures animated film of Zog (starring Rob Brydon and Sir Lenny Henry) and its sequel Zog and the flying doctors are both currently available to watch on BBC Iplayer
Photos courtesy of Mark Senior PR