The Dragon

By Elyce Phillips


A knight in shining armour, a damsel in distress and a terrifying three-headed dragon – all the elements may be there, but this is no run-of-the-mill fairy tale. Based on the play by Russian writer Evgeny Shwarz, ‘The Dragon’ is a sharp-witted exploration of power and courage. Lancelot (Jimi Bani), sets out for Dufresne, hearing it is beset by a dragon. Once there, he decides to rescue the lovely Elsa (Nikki Shiels), however, she has no desire to be saved.

The original play may have been written in the 1940s, but its satirical lancing of totalitarianism remains painfully relevant today. Toby Schmitz’s adaptation is accomplished and hilarious, from the Aussified knight Lancelot’s quest for beer and chicks, to the strangely poetic doubletalk of the dragon. The story has a timeless quality. The small town of Dufresne could stand in for any number of stifling political regimes – the leaders taking away the rights of their constituents under the guise of protecting them from enemies abroad.

The performances are fantastic throughout. Kim Gyngell is gloriously unhinged as the town’s mayor and John Leary is a stand-out as his snivelling sidekick. However, Tripod (Scott Edgar, Steven Gates and Simon Hall) steal the show, appearing both as Lancelot’s animal guides and as the three heads of the titular dragon. The trio also created original music for the production.

The Dragon is a visually striking production. The use of a rotating set is effective and a clever use of the space. The drab Cold War aesthetics of the set and the costumes play well against the absurdities of the character and the story and are a nice nod to the original.

The Dragon is uproariously funny, thought-provoking and full of heart. It is the perfect play to lift your spirits from the mire of pre-election rhetoric.

The Dragon is showing at the Malthouse Theatre until July 26.

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