Review: Zog gets lively reception in Corby but fails to catch fire

The cast of Zog. Picture: Helen Maybanks
The cast of Zog. Picture: Helen Maybanks

Lily Canter reviews Zog at The Core at Corby Cube

Much like Julia Donaldson's children's books, theatre adaptations of her award-winning work are a mixed bag.

Call me a cynic but the motivation behind adapting popular tale Zog does seem to roar cash dragon rather than artistic merit (particularly with the sale of £16 Zog teddies at the bar).

It is the latest in a long line of picture book adaptations such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Aliens Love Underpants and Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales which I have subjected my two young boys to.

The problem is that these books are not just long enough to adapt. So the creators fill in the blanks by changing the story and adding artistic but obscure singing numbers and the end result is a confusing narrative which leaves my children asking "when are we seeing the real Zog?".

By comparison novels for older children such as The Jungle Book and Wind in the Willows have spawned captivating and exhilarating adaptations which have not strayed too far from the source material.

Zog, which comes to the Royal and Derngate in June, was performed at The Core at Corby Cube last week and to its credit it received a lively reception from the young audience.

The story loosely follows the eager Zog who is desperate to win a golden star at Dragon School and gets into a variety of bumps and scrapes with medic Princess Pearl regularly coming to his aid.

The interaction in the production was far superior to the rather earnest Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, which was created by the same team, and this time my three-year-old was giggling with glee rather than wriggling in boredom.

The company of five actors injected energy and humour into the performance, creating a pantomime feel with plenty of opportunity for the audience to point, shout and roar.

Less successful was the underwhelming dragon puppets and the moral messages shoehorned into the production.

The strength of the book lies in its formula, structure and rhythm but unfortunately these were completely lacking in the production which got off to a slow start and petered out at the end.

Although the essence of the book was retained the random barking rabbits, the shift of focus to Princess Pearl and unnecessary dream sequence may disgruntle Donaldson purists.

All that being said my kids did enjoy it, and my six-year-old summed it up as "good even though it's not like the book".

As a piece of theatre it is a enjoyable hour of light entertainment but as an adaptation it never really soars.

* Zog runs at Royal & Derngate from June 21 to 23. Book tickets at www.royalandderngate.co.uk.