Magical. Mystical. Enchanting. Bewitching. Throw the lexicon at this show. No, don’t – there are dragons involved! You never know what you might get. This show had me crying within the first five minutes because of the sheer power of the storytelling. But as well as this, Land of the Dragon delivers all you hope for in a kids’ show and much more besides.
There is real drama here for the youngsters and much humour too. So too for the adults.
Let me say first off that this is a bilingual Welsh-English puppet performance interspersed with shadow theatre. The bilinguality in itself adds a lyrical beauty to it that is rare in storytelling. I don’t speak Welsh, despite growing up in The Valleys. Nor did anyone else in that audience, I suspect. But the pure sounds of the ‘foreign’ language here are those of the finest poetry – as befits a piece drawing on The Mabinogion. The gentle weaving of the two tongues ensures that even the smallest child is swept along on this fantastic journey. Fagner Gastaldon designed the puppets for Gwlad Y Ddraig. A simple evil rope snake unsettles the small child next to me, but prepares him for the fierce dragon fight awaiting him at the end.
The show starts with an orphaned baby being cast on the waves in a tiny boat by his dying mother, with nothing in the vessel but the child and an egg she has been protecting. He grows to be the keeper of the egg. But returning as an old man to his long-lost homeland, he faces the threat of evil dragons and snakes, hell bent on destroying his precious charge. We have storms and battles, oceans are crossed and dreams come alive. Geese and sheep, a loyal pet dog; all inhabit his world. All this is accompanied by a wonderful epic score which enriches the atmosphere - in this moment highly dramatic, in that moment an aid to calm. Plus the singing is sublime.
There is real drama here for the youngsters and much humour too. So too for the adults. The forces of Good (in the form of the red dragon) and Evil (the white) clash head-to-head in this tale which draws on myth and legend, and we learn of the origins of the red dragon emblazoned on the national flag. Or at least one of the myths behind it. Regardless, children queued excitedly for the free posters, and many were framing the rest of their day around the chance to meet some of the puppets in The Pleasance kids’ area later in the afternoon.
They say that to be born Welsh is to be born privileged: not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but with music in your heart and poetry in your soul. There was plenty of both here and the audience loved it. It was a privilege to be there.