Review: The oddly entertaining Saint George and the Dragon, National Theatre
Rory Mullarkey's new play Saint George and the Dragon is odd.
Saw it during preview and there were a few teething problems with the fancier aspects of the staging (which isn't that unusual during preview for a big production like this) so I don't feel I got the full 'wow'* but still got the essence of the play.
It's a clunky allegorical tale that starts off feeling like a piece of children's theatre as we learn the history of Saint George (John Heffernan) and how he saves England from a dragon (Julian Bleach). We then fast forward to the industrial revolution with the same set of town's folk although for them only a year has passed. There is a new dragon to destroy in the new era but this dragon is more difficult to kill because he's representative of an establishment setting rules and regulations that benefit the few.
Then we jump forward to the current day, again only a year for the characters of the play, and there is yet another dragon representing another dark side humanity for George to destroy.
At the interval I couldn't help thinking there must be more to it and hoped it was leading up to something really clever but it wasn't. It's too black and white with goodies and baddies and only one character - Henry (Richard Goulding) - who switches. OK so the point is that the 'dragon' is in all of us but even so.
There is a nice point of reference from the first dragon encounter which brings things almost full circle but otherwise it felt like a lot of effort for something that didn't really delve much beneath the surface.
That said, this wasn't Common, in that it was at least entertaining, quite fun in places and laugh out loud funny - although at one point I wasn't sure if I was laughing at it or with it. John Heffernan is a brilliantly charming George in a fabulous wig but it was Julian Bleach's dragon who stole every scene. It felt like it was teetering on the edge of something much sillier or something darker but never quite goes there. However, I weirdly enjoyed it.
It's two hours and 45 minutes including an interval and is at the National Theatre until December 2 and I haven't a clue how many stars to give it.
* During the big dragon fight scene, there were wires from the back of the auditorium onto the stage but nothing came travelling down them - let me know what I missed if you saw it.