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Review: Dragon Fever

Updated: Feb 1


Dragon Fever? Dragon Fever-dream. Fuck me. 


I walked into the Byre Theatre not knowing what to expect. I left not knowing what I had just seen. 


Dragon Fever is a Dungeon & Dragons fan’s wet dream. Adapted from a Spanish novel written by director Albert Suriñach Campos, the show follows nine characters as they travel a forest in search of treasure and a dragon (which may or may not exist). From the outset, they must also solve the murder of the man who sent them on this quest, Lord Beckerveng. I must admit, I don’t mind Lord Beckerveng – I, too, wish to communicate only via posthumous scrolls. Exciting stuff! However, their mission quickly goes to shit. Not only is the original murder unsolved, but more people are getting killed off by the second. And there are hallucinogenic trees everywhere. Money may not grow on them, but apparently LSD does. As the plot thickens, so does the air (the smoke machine was used to great effect). 


I must admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the writing in the first act and a half, however, after the interval I found myself engaged again. The pacing definitely improved, although there were still monologues that could have been condensed, and the audience were more enthusiastic about the story in just about every way. For example, there were cheers every time Rigeon (Callum Wardman-Browne) lifted a cigarette to his mouth, and there was even something like a vocal drumroll as Urk (unknown) knocked Nilvana (Louise Mountbatten-Windsor) unconscious in a move resembling someone hitting a cricket ball with a frying pan. As the plot twists all came together, the still-living characters were effective in tying up loose ends in a way that portrayed their awareness of the absurd situation they found themselves in. I also liked the physical division of the acts, although this may just be because I like the horn the Gnome (Ellen Rowlett) uses. The tone of the show dissolved from tense fantasy murder mystery to a fun camp romp, with interesting twists around every turn which kept me, and the rest of the audience thoroughly engaged.  


Key performances came from the likes of Felix Da Silva Clamp, who was an audience favourite as Grant, the squire who falls for the tough huntswoman with a concerningly close relationship with her pet, Xao (Iha Jha). Luke Robinson as Nero also provides comic relief (and exposition) and seems to enjoy channelling Russell Brand while gallivanting around the stage. Everyone has hobbies, I suppose.  


The stars of the show, however, were ultimately the puppets (Truman Cunningham) and props (Vivian Luckiw) especially the tree and the aforementioned Gnome Horn. Truly the employees of the month. Xao’s tiger, Ruku, was an outstanding piece of craftsmanship, as a fully functioning three headed tiger (or mythological equivalent) operated by an actor onstage. Ruku was so impressive that I almost felt underwhelmed by the eventual reveal of the dragon. The tomb door/glass window was also a great piece of set design. I wish I was as multifunctional and sexy as that cardboard work of art! Makeup (Patricia Solans and Charlotte Burg) is also worth a special mention. Taylor Colbeth’s character, Freyr looks somewhat like a work of art. Finally, the costumes were fully fleshed out and I felt they were very effective in distinguishing who was who, which is always a challenge in a cast the size of this one. All in all, the production team did an amazing job at bringing Dragon Fever to life.  


My main criticism of this play is that I wasn’t a fan of the use of sexual assault as a means to further the plot. Reducing the female lead to an object to be claimed by men is something I feel should be left behind in the fantasy books of the 70s. I also feel it came out of nowhere (much like Rigeon out of the woods). I mean, there’s a difference between Rigeon being a flirt and a rapist - there was absolutely another way for Nilvanna to reveal the true extent of her powers (Elsa pulled a Jesus and walked on water, for example). Assault was out of character for a man whose previous biggest transgression was wearing a v-neck shirt in front of her. Furthermore, it makes Rigeon and Nilvanna’s romantic dynamic later in the play seem odd and out of place after she has exclaimed that no one shall touch her again. 


Overall, however, I did enjoy Dragon Fever. Once the audience became engaged, it made for an enjoyable absurd fantasy comedy. I may need 3-5 business days to fully explain what happened in there, but like the Mighty Boosh, there is a charm in being slightly confused. 


erin (any pronouns)


Tickets can be purchased from the Byre Theatre website through the link below! 

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