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Theatre Review: Saint George and The Dragon @ National Theatre

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Saint George and the Dragon is the latest piece of work from Rory Mullarkey, under the direction of Lyndsey Turner.

The play is a parable of human susceptibility for order and system, which built from human constructs has the somewhat inevitable potential to swallow up the thing that created it in the first place.

 St George and the Dragon is a re-imagining of the original myth, and sees ‘George’ attempting to save humanity from the ‘dragon’ which manifests itself across the time in various guises, from a literal dragon to economical ideology.

 Coming across as a ‘socialist nativity’, the production is very confused – both in its message and demographic. Billed as one of the leading productions in the Olivier, the largest theatre at the National, the play could almost be perceived as the National’s attempt at staging its own version of a modern pantomime. It appears to have been made for children, yet played for adults.

 After gaining traction in the third act, where we are placed into a modern context, the play ends too early to even begin answering its own questions. Putting all its stock into the metaphor of the ‘dragon’, it vastly oversimplifies a complex subject, ultimately failing to fully explore its own ideas of nationalism. For the political landscape we’re in, it’s far too lukewarm a sentiment to be impactful.

 This is a shame considering the ensemble managed to bring a well-paced and cohesive performance. John Heffernan delivers a consistent and considered performance as George, however the source material puts the cast at a disadvantage from the get-go due to the failures and laziness in the writing. The story quickly becomes predictable, and without complexity of narrative it is too easy to lose interest.

 The stage is ill-considered in the Olivier, wasting space and not fully utilising its potential, with the design of the stage and use of projection feeling too akin to other recent National productions to be striking.

 'Saint George and The Dragon’ is a missed opportunity to explore a current, divisive and important subject, in the end barely dipping its toes in the water, let alone putting forward a considered argument. 

Saint George and The Dragon runs at the National Theatre until Saturday 2nd December. For more information, including tickets, click here.

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