There's a dragon heading for Horsham's Capitol

Director Emma Kilbey admits she absolutely adores Zog.

Thursday, 6th February 2020, 9:02 am

There’s a lot to like about the dragon. You can see for yourself when Zog takes to the stage at Horsham’s Capitol from Thursday to Saturday, February 6-8, courtesy of Freckle Productions and Rose Theatre Kingston in an adaptation of the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Large in size and keen in nature, Zog is eager to win a golden star at Madam Dragon’s school where dragons learn all the things that dragons need to know. Zog tries so very hard, perhaps too hard, and he bumps, burns and roars his way through years one, two and three. Luckily, the plucky Princess Pearl patches him up ready to face his biggest challenge yet: a duel with the knight Sir Gadabout the Great…

It all comes with brand-new songs from Joe Stilgoe (The Jungle Book, The Midnight Gang) and runs for an hour, all ages welcome.

“Children just love it,” Emma says. “They are so fascinated by dragons because they find them so fantastical. He is at dragon school and he is a real have-a-go hero. He is just full of enthusiasm and desperate to get things right.

“There is an educational system. Who would have thought there would be an educational system for dragons? But they are learning to breathe fire and roar and do all the things dragons do, and the school is run by Madam Dragon who rewards them for their tasks with golden stars, and Zog is just desperate to win one. But he keeps getting it wrong. He crashes into trees; he burns his wing tips. Everything he does, he just does with too much gusto. His fellow pupils are rewarded with stars, but it is just crushing for him… and for us!

“I just adore him. He has got that sort of Labrador energy or of any kind of dog really, that just throws itself into muddy ponds. It is absolutely that joy of being in the moment rather than getting something exactly perfect.”

There is also, at the heart of it all, a lovely tale about becoming who you are supposed to be: “There is a knight that has to fight Zog and he has a go at it, but they are both not really commit-ted to it. The knight is a bit rubbish. And there is a very big other character called Pearl who is a princess, but before we realise she is a princess, she turns up every time that Zog hurts himself. He becomes hoarse from trying to roar, and she will turn up with her medical bag in the middle of the wood and look after him. It turns out towards the end, when they have to capture a princess, that she is actually a princess, but she is not too keen. She is more interested in books and medicine. She says ‘I want to be a doctor’, and the knight says ‘Good! Can I be your assistant?’ and Zog becomes a kind of flying ambulance service. They all become what they want to be.”

Emma is delighted to have music by Joe: “A good song in any musical treatment of a piece has to further the narrative. It is not just about standing on the spot and saying how beautiful things are. It has got to add information about the story and move things on, and Joe is brilliant at that. We have got such a beautiful collection of songs. We sat down and discussed areas where we felt we need a song and what it would be about… what is the moral here or the theme or the sensibility? And he has written such beautiful songs. They are earworm songs. We were talking about what was required and as soon as I heard the songs he had written, I knew we were on exactly the same page.”