The Princess and the Dragon is a modern retelling of an old tale, given a surprising twist. It also provides a surprising, but necessary, message to its intended audience of 7- to 11-year-olds.
We start, as we often do, with a Princess (Charlotte Ellen) trapped in a tower. Her father is pushing her to marry – not for love, or even to someone of her own choosing, and is keeping her held captive until she agrees. The Princess – Isola – has befriended Dragon (Emily Carding), and between them, they’ve seen off all of the various suitors, who have, in traditional style, been sent to ‘rescue’ her, and thereby win her hand in marriage. When Isola realises that she can escape the tower with Dragon’s help, she does so, and sets off on what she believes to be her journey to freedom.
However, the tale is not that straightforward. Isola wonders whether she should perhaps try to make amends with her father, and she definitely knows that she wants to return to his castle, rather than the far flung part of the kingdom Dragon has brought her to. Dragon becomes controlling, toxic, and guilty of more than a little gaslighting. And so Isola, once again, runs away. And Dragon finds her and tries to take her back to their home, and so Isola runs again. It takes several attempts for Isola to achieve her freedom, and by the end of the tale not only has Isola arranged a change in the law, such that she is now allowed to make her own choice as to who she may marry – or even if she marries at all, but Dragon has also learnt an important lesson that friendships can end, for all sorts of reasons, all of them valid, an that we should be prepared to accept changes others withs to make.
Told through music and direct address, as well as by Isola and Dragon talking to each other, this is a story which is important for its intended audience to experience, at a point in their lives when friendships will be changing, as will their characters and interests – some of which will force pre-existing friendships to change, or end altogether.
The message that we can and will change throughout our lives, and that, if our friends can’t, or won’t support us, that we should be strong enough to make new friends, is important not just for children. The use of a framing mechanism – a fairy tale – with which we are all familiar, allows the audience to understand the story they are being told, in a manner they will be familiar with.
Briskly paced at just 60 minutes long, this show will stay with young minds long after the final bar of music has faded, and is an entertaining way to impart a serious moral.