Family Show Review: Zog Live On Stage, Wycombe Swan
Zog Live On Stage
Things We Like
- Blends the use of puppets and human performers playing the same characters very cleverly
- Creative use of a simple set, props and costumes
- Features live music with a wide array of musical instruments
- Stays true to the key themes of the book, such as following your dreams
Things We Dislike
- Loosely based on the book and could do with more of the original text
- The music wasn't quite as catchy as previous Freckle Productions' shows
- A little pricey for 55 mins of entertainment for the family
What’s It All About?
A stage adaptation of the Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book, Zog Live tells the story of the plucky young dragon determined to prove he has what it takes to learn all the things that dragons need to know. Featuring singing, dancing, live music, puppets and acting, the humorous and captivating show is sure to entertain young and old.
What Do We Think?
Our 5-year old daughter loves all of the Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler books, so she was excited when we told her that we had tickets to the brand new Zog stage show at Wycombe Swan. What’s more, this show is actually by the same team – Freckle Productions – who created the Stick Man and Tiddler stage shows which we saw last year and really enjoyed.
If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it follows a young dragon called Zog in his quest to win a gold star from Madam Dragon’s school as he learns what it takes to become a grown-up dragon. With the addition of school friends, Princess Pearl and Sir Gadabout, the book is not only humorous, but it has some great messages about following your dreams, dealing with adversity and being kind to others.
The Zog stage show is an adaptation of the book, which means that quite a lot of creative licence is used. It doesn’t tell the story word for word, instead preferring to add new parts, take some bits out and jumble other sections of the original text. As such, if you’re expecting the book performed on stage or a live show of the recent TV film, then you may be a little disappointed.
Instead, the show takes the characters and main themes from the book, then explores, embellishes and delves a little deeper. For instance, more is made of the Madam Dragon character to give her added personality, there’s a scene where Sir Gadabout is followed around by a copycat, and there’s additional characters in the form of two white rabbits. This makes the show familiar, but different – however, personally, we’d have liked to have seen more of the original text included.
The show features five different performers, who between them, play a range of characters in the show and tell the story through acting, song and dance. Each actor did a great job and really brought their characters to life. This is really cleverly done because, for instance, the person playing Zog is dressed up as the character, but also operates the realistic Zog puppet, depending on the scene. This provides great continuity and reduces confusing as your focus switches from puppet to person.
That’s not all though – the show cleverly utilises a simple set and props to tell the story. The emphasis is definitely on ‘less is more’, which we think works perfectly for young children as it allows them to use their imaginations. For example, Madam Dragon flies from the top of the climbing frame using a harness, Princess Pearl is locked in a prison made from the lower half of the climbing frame, the dragons breathe fire using orange ribbons on a stick and they rescue princesses made from mops with bows.
One of the great things about this show – and the other Freckle Productions’ shows – is the music. There’s no backing track and everything is performed live, both in terms of singing and playing musical instruments. In fact, there’s a vast array of instruments lined up at the side of the stage ready to be incorporated into the performance. This includes guitars, an accordion, a double bass, a drum kit, a melodica and even a loop station.
The songs have a very folk / country feel to them, which is down to the lyrics and music being written by actor and musician Johnny Flynn (Dylan in Lovesick / David Bowie in Stardust). Although everything was performed perfectly and the songs helped tell the story, the music lacked a little something when compared to other Freckle Productions’ shows. Over 1.5 years later, we still sing the utterly catchy “Stick Man, lives in the family tree…” song from Stick Man Live, yet the songs in Zog fail to create that kind of earworm.
As with all good children’s theatre shows, it featured some audience participation in the form of shouting out answers to questions and the age-old “it’s behind you” routine. One of the best bits was when Zog and friends learnt to fly and ventured into the audience. In reality, this was puppets on a long stick danged over our heads, but because the performers came into the seating area, this created a lot of excitement for the kids (and adults!) watching.
Our daughter thoroughly enjoyed the Zog show and was glued to the stage throughout the 55 minutes performance. She also enjoyed the audience participation and let out plenty of hearty laughs thanks to the humorous and silly nature of the show. At 5-years old, the show was well-suited to her age, however I’d say anyone over 3-years old will get something out of it, particularly if they’re familiar with the book.
From a parent’s perspective, the show did feel a little slow paced at times and, personally, probably didn’t live up to Stick Man or Tiddler. However, it’s probably a little unfair to compare it to previous productions – as a standalone show, it was still an enjoyable and entertaining watch, plus a great way to get kids into going to the theatre.
What Does It Look Like?
Photography was not permitted during the show, so press photos are included below:
What Do I Need To Know?
Type: Theatre, Live Show.
Dates: 13th and 14th March 2019 at Wycome Swan, as part of a UK tour starting in February 2019 and ending in July 2019.
Price: Child £15, Adult £17.
Duration: Approx. 55 minutes (no interval).
Age Range: Babies and Toddlers (0-3), Young Children (4-8).
Disclosure – We were provided with complimentary tickets to the show in order to write an honest review.