The Last of the Dragons – 5 STAR
by Toh Wen Li on 27th August 2015
Like all good pieces of children’s theatre, The Last of the Dragonsdoes not talk down to children. This brilliant adaptation of E. Nesbit’s short story of the same name captivates its young and adult audience alike by virtue of a tight, fast-paced and funny storyline, as well as strong acting from all members of the cast. The children in the audience were enthralled throughout the entire performance, as their enthusiastic and vocal reactions throughout can well testify.
The Last of the Dragons does an excellent job at subverting gender stereotypes and exposing them as ridiculous.
In line with a tradition dating back for centuries, every princess is tied to a rock on her 16th birthday so she can be captured by a dragon and then rescued by a prince. However, things change when a brave sword-wielding princess and a pale, bookish prince agree that it is in their best interests that they fight the dragon together. When they eventually track the dragon down, they learn some surprising things, not least that it is now the world’s last living dragon. While this production by the Manhattan Children’s Theatre does justice to Nesbit’s charming story, it also introduces a number of comic additions and revelations that people already familiar with the original can look forward to.
From the king’s absurd obsession with ‘tradition’ and the sword-thrusting days of his youth, to the princess literally sweeping the prince off his feet, The Last of the Dragons does an excellent job at subverting gender stereotypes and exposing them as ridiculous. And it is to the scriptwriter’s credit that these never come across as excessive or contrived.
There are few bad things to be said of this show, aside from the fact that its use of classical music seems slightly anachronistic and out of place. But it is undeniable that The Last of the Dragons is an absolute delight to behold – definitely a must-see at this year’s Fringe.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe children’s show review: The Last of the Dragons, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter
The idea of a damsel in distress being rescued by a handsome man has been around for so long, we hardly notice it’s there. Which is exactly why it’s so damaging as a stereotype. So hurrah for Manhattan Children’s Theatre for joining a burgeoning list of storytellers re-dressing the balance.
Instead of the prince rescuing the princess in their funny and energetic new show, she’s the one who comes to his aid. Of course Edith Nesbit, who wrote the original story, was championing strong females back in 1925 – but nothing endures like a stereotype.
Director, Laura Stevens launched her company in New York in 2002, but having moved to Edinburgh last year, she’s now using the brand over here.
A talented all-British cast turn Nesbit’s story (adapted by Kristin Walter) into a veritable romp.
With a nod to Shakespeare and French farce, the show is as much a romance as an adventure story – although never stumbling into the “sloppy” territory.
On the eve of her 16th birthday, the Princess gets ready to meet her betrothed. Before he can marry her, however, the Prince needs to slay a dragon and untie his howling bride-to-be from a rock. Only trouble is, when it comes to sword smithery, she’s Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, and he’s Piglet from Winnie the Pooh.
The Prince’s nervousness is never over-played, however, which is an important point. He has other admirable qualities, proving that empowering the female in a narrative doesn’t mean you have to diminish the male.
In a strong cast, special mention goes to Tom Duncan as the suave Valet, who manages to keep the Prince in check with one hand, and woo the Nurse with the other.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 10 August 2015
Primary Times – The last of the Dragons Reader’s Review
“I loved it!” (and even got to swap places with the Prince on stage)
– Caelan aged 6
We are spoiled for choice in Edinburgh at Festival time, and it’s not easy to choose from the wealth of family entertainment on offer. Look no further! The Last of the Dragons, with a stellar cast directed by Laura Stevens, is just the ticket, with its hilarious and high-energy slapstick comedy. My son and I were both thoroughly impressed by the quality theatre production starring Hannah Howie as the strong-willed Princess, Isobel McArthur, her dedicated nurse, the star-gazing Prince, played by Thomas Doherty and his charismatic Valet, Tom Duncan. The Princess is a reluctant damsel in distress who wants to battle the dragon herself, much to the chagrin of her father, the King, played by David Mahoney, who fondly reminisces about his own dragon fighting days.
The audience is caught up in the fast-paced adventure, from beginning to end. Each scene is expertly staged by the cast who interact directly with the audience, much to everyone’s amusement. The casting is superb and the costumes are fabulous. The story has been adapted by Kristin Walter from the story by Edith Nesbit. Best to get there early to get good seats, as the theatre filled up quickly. The queue is through the archway to the Pleasance Courtyard – Beneath, in a ‘secret’ (to us) extra bar area. There are children’s activities in the ‘Pleasance Kidzone’ before and after the show. This is a professional show suitable for the whole family. My 6 year old son and I both highly recommend it!
Reviewed by Catherine Pierce 13 August