I stepped out of my comfort zone yesterday and attend a workshop with Get The Chance, Wales at Chapter Arts Centre. I’ll write more about this in another post, but part of the event was undertaking a review. We were fortunate to see You’ve Got Dragons, a production by Taking Flight.
I learned a lot about Taking Flight at the workshop. I was fortunate to be sat next to the mother of one of the Producers and to hear the input of Beth, an actor who works with Taking Flight.
Taking Flight is a company which focus on creating accessible theatre. And knowing nothing, I wondered what this meant on stage. I have attended productions with surtitles, and found them a little distracting. I was fortunate to see a Theatre Graeae production some time ago. It was interesting to see how a family oriented performance would successfully enable engagement for all.
In a sold out performance I found myself chatting to two 8-year-old girls about the performance. I loved that they had chosen to come to Chapter and secured the last few tickets. We sat chatting, admiring Stacey-Jo Atkinson’s set, I loved the colour chalk board effect. As always, children are far more astute, pointing out to me how much they liked Jane Lalljee’s dragon lighting effect.
As soon as the performance began, children fell silent. The dragons of Chloe Clarke and Hermon Berhane caused gasps and some initial fear. Testament to the characterisation and the physicality of their performance choreographed by Morgan Thomas, the physical aspects of the dragon were consistent enabling us to appreciate the changing roles the two actors portrayed.
The set continued to impress me as the actors integrated with it, and it took on so many different uses as the story unfolded. Dan Lawrence’s composition added tension and fun to the story, with a number of instruments used effectively on stage to integrate with the action.
James William Ward took on a challenging task, multiple roles with much humour as well as leading musician. Whilst I found his characterisation in the role of Dad to be less convincing, it did not take away from the stage translation of Kathryn Cave’s book of the same title.
As well as musical talent, the most humour was created through the scenes where James took on the role of postman, with support from the cast. The use of physical and visual theatre created one of the many memorable moments of the production.The story of You’ve Got Dragons is a difficult one to convey for such a wide age group. I think the theme of anxiety was lost on younger members of the audience but not to the detriment of an enjoyable performance. For those a little older and more likely to relate, the themes were brought to stage with subtlety, ensuring the message of dragons affecting most people was understood.
The play successfully used a wide range of techniques to ensure the story was accessible. As described in the YouTube clip below, You’ve Got Dragons interwove BSL, creative caption, audio description as well as live music. The intricacies of Elise Davison’s direction meant all elements were integrated so you didn’t feel distracted from the story.
Axelina Heagney as Benjamina enabled the story to be brought together as she took on her dragons. Encapsulating the persona of a young child, Axelina successfully conveyed the joy of childhood whilst balancing it with the fears and anxieties which bring out dragons.
As I came away from the production, I reflected on how well Taking Flight have created inclusive theatre. All the elements which have been added to this production to create inclusivity add to the enjoyment. As well as creating enjoyable and engaging theatre, Taking Flight have successfully taken on a challenging theme.
You’ve Got Dragons is presented by Taking Flight Theatre as a co-production with The Met, Abertillery supported by Creu Cymru. Fantastic for families, there is something for everyone to enjoy and take away from the performance.
1st May, 10am & 2pm at Wise Words Festival, Canterbury
20th May, 2pm at Newbridge MEMO
24th May at Parc and Dare, Treorchy
27th May at Theatr Bryncheiniog, Brecon
28th May, 1.30 & 4pm at The Mission Theatre, Bath
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own.