Like all good pieces of children’s theatre, The Last of the Dragonsdoes not talk down to children. This brilliant adaptation of E. Nesbit’s short story of the same name captivates its young and adult audience alike by virtue of a tight, fast-paced and funny storyline, as well as strong acting from all members of the cast. The children in the audience were enthralled throughout the entire performance, as their enthusiastic and vocal reactions throughout can well testify.
The Last of the Dragons does an excellent job at subverting gender stereotypes and exposing them as ridiculous.
In line with a tradition dating back for centuries, every princess is tied to a rock on her 16th birthday so she can be captured by a dragon and then rescued by a prince. However, things change when a brave sword-wielding princess and a pale, bookish prince agree that it is in their best interests that they fight the dragon together. When they eventually track the dragon down, they learn some surprising things, not least that it is now the world’s last living dragon. While this production by the Manhattan Children’s Theatre does justice to Nesbit’s charming story, it also introduces a number of comic additions and revelations that people already familiar with the original can look forward to.
From the king’s absurd obsession with ‘tradition’ and the sword-thrusting days of his youth, to the princess literally sweeping the prince off his feet, The Last of the Dragons does an excellent job at subverting gender stereotypes and exposing them as ridiculous. And it is to the scriptwriter’s credit that these never come across as excessive or contrived.
There are few bad things to be said of this show, aside from the fact that its use of classical music seems slightly anachronistic and out of place. But it is undeniable that The Last of the Dragons is an absolute delight to behold – definitely a must-see at this year’s Fringe.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe children’s show review: The Last of the Dragons, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter
The idea of a damsel in distress being rescued by a handsome man has been around for so long, we hardly notice it’s there. Which is exactly why it’s so damaging as a stereotype. So hurrah for Manhattan Children’s Theatre for joining a burgeoning list of storytellers re-dressing the balance.
Instead of the prince rescuing the princess in their funny and energetic new show, she’s the one who comes to his aid. Of course Edith Nesbit, who wrote the original story, was championing strong females back in 1925 – but nothing endures like a stereotype.
Director, Laura Stevens launched her company in New York in 2002, but having moved to Edinburgh last year, she’s now using the brand over here.
A talented all-British cast turn Nesbit’s story (adapted by Kristin Walter) into a veritable romp.
With a nod to Shakespeare and French farce, the show is as much a romance as an adventure story – although never stumbling into the “sloppy” territory.
On the eve of her 16th birthday, the Princess gets ready to meet her betrothed. Before he can marry her, however, the Prince needs to slay a dragon and untie his howling bride-to-be from a rock. Only trouble is, when it comes to sword smithery, she’s Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, and he’s Piglet from Winnie the Pooh.
The Prince’s nervousness is never over-played, however, which is an important point. He has other admirable qualities, proving that empowering the female in a narrative doesn’t mean you have to diminish the male.
In a strong cast, special mention goes to Tom Duncan as the suave Valet, who manages to keep the Prince in check with one hand, and woo the Nurse with the other.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 10 August 2015
The last of the Dragons Reader’s Review
The Last of the Dragons
Primary Times reader quote
“I loved it!” (and even got to swap places with the Prince on stage)
– Caelan aged 6
We are spoiled for choice in Edinburgh at Festival time, and it’s not easy to choose from the wealth of family entertainment on offer. Look no further! The Last of the Dragons, with a stellar cast directed by Laura Stevens, is just the ticket, with its hilarious and high-energy slapstick comedy. My son and I were both thoroughly impressed by the quality theatre production starring Hannah Howie as the strong-willed Princess, Isobel McArthur, her dedicated nurse, the star-gazing Prince, played by Thomas Doherty and his charismatic Valet, Tom Duncan. The Princess is a reluctant damsel in distress who wants to battle the dragon herself, much to the chagrin of her father, the King, played by David Mahoney, who fondly reminisces about his own dragon fighting days.
The audience is caught up in the fast-paced adventure, from beginning to end. Each scene is expertly staged by the cast who interact directly with the audience, much to everyone’s amusement. The casting is superb and the costumes are fabulous. The story has been adapted by Kristin Walter from the story by Edith Nesbit. Best to get there early to get good seats, as the theatre filled up quickly. The queue is through the archway to the Pleasance Courtyard – Beneath, in a ‘secret’ (to us) extra bar area. There are children’s activities in the ‘Pleasance Kidzone’ before and after the show. This is a professional show suitable for the whole family. My 6 year old son and I both highly recommend it!
Reviewed by Catherine Pierce 13 August
All Edinburgh Theatre
Cora Dibdin (age 7) Junior Reporter All Edinburgh Teatre
12 noon (run ends 31st Aug)
E Nesbit of The Railway Children wrote this short story which turns traditional fairy tale roles on their heads long before Disney and Pixar were even dreamed of…
According to tradition, in the kingdom of Middlefield every princess must, on her 16th birthday, be tied to a rock for a local dragon to kidnap: she will then be rescued by a prince who will slay the dragon and receive her hand in marriage. Our heroine is just approaching her 16th birthday, and refuses to be a helpless victim: she can’t see why she can’t fight the dragon herself, as she is the best swordsperson in the kingdom. Her father won’t listen, and recounts for the umpteenth time how he slew his dragon: her nurse is equally unhelpful. Enter the prince, a scholar rather than a swordsman, who is terrified of the prospect in store: add a lonely dragon who doesn’t eat people – and things simply can’t turn out the way Tradition expects.
The cast play with enormous energy and enthusiasm, and engage whole-heartedly with their young audience. The hero and heroine are very appealing; the parent’s attention is engaged with a sub-plot involving the princess’s nurse and the prince’s valet; there is a lot of rushing about and squealing; and, apart from one very young lady who was reduced to inconsolable tears, everyone wholeheartedly enjoyed the show. The use of well-chosen classical music to underpin the action was a further delight for me!
E Nesbit wrote this story in 1899, but the Princess is an excellent role-model for girls of today. I was struck by the similarities between her and Merida [heroine of Brave] – she refuses to wait around to be rescued or awarded as a prize to a successful prince: she keeps trying to tell her father, who won’t listen: she is as full of compassion for the dragon’s plight as Merida is for her bear-mother: and it all ends happily with her father [hopefully] having learned a lesson. Plus ça change, plus c’ést la même chose…
Stereotypes die hard. And nowhere do they cling to life more tenaciously than in fairy tales, usually populated by delicate damsels in distress, strong and brave princes and evil supernatural creatures.
If you’re tired of that ”Once upon a time” same old, same old, you should visit Manhattan Children’s Theatre for ”The Last of the Dragons,” Kristin Walter’s adaptation of a story by E. Nesbit. An inspired tale that turns all these clichés — and one or two characters — on their heads, this 50-minute production not only concerns the last of all dragons, but also the first to show that the species is not responsible for fiery fatalities.
The play’s royalty is unusual, too.
The heroine, Different Sort of Princess (Lisanne Marie), who wields a mean sword and a quick wit, doesn’t understand a tradition that dictates that she be tied to a rock so that a dragon can take her away. (The object is for a prince to slay the dragon and marry her.) She wants to know why the prince can’t be tied up. She’s talking about feminism, not bondage. And her boastful father (Chris Alonzo) has chosen a prince (David Demato) who can use her help. More Clark Kent than Superman, he can’t dispatch anything bigger than a dragonfly. Little do the royals know that the dragon (Alex Rasovar) hardly deserves its fate.
Directed by Laura Stevens, the play seems even livelier than when I saw it elsewhere four years ago. The valet (B. J. Thorne) and the nurse (Chelsea Palano) make the most of their romantic subplot, and children giggle wildly at the madcap chases and the sock puppets used as narrative aids. One warning: though the dragon is sweet, its mere mention on Sunday caused two preschoolers to demand to be taken home.
Rest assured that everyone does live happily ever after; myth-busting goes only so far.
Off Off Broadway Review
The Last of the Dragons
By Kristin Walter
Adapted from the story by Edith Nesbit
Directed by Laura Stevens
Manhattan Children’s Theatre
Review by Byrne Harrison
For as long as there have been princesses, there have been dragons to kidnap them, princes to rescue them, and happily-ever-afters to be lived. But what would happen if the princess knew about swords and the prince was a bookworm? And what if the dragon refused to show up? Could there still be a happy ending if tradition wasn’t followed?
That’s the central premise of Kristin Walter’s The Last of the Dragons (from the story by Edith Nesbit). Lisanne Marie played a different sort of Princess. She works out, she plays with swords, and most of all, she doesn’t want to be tied to a rock, kidnapped by a dragon, and saved by a prince. Her father, the King (Chris Alonzo), doesn’t understand his daughter, but he does understand tradition. He finds a Prince (David Demato) and on the morning of his daughter’s 16th birthday, he ties her to a rock and waits for the dragon to steal her. Little does he know that the Princess and Prince have a plan to fight the dragon together. When it doesn’t arrive, they hunt it down and are surprised to find out that this Dragon (Alex Rasovar) is nothing like what they expected.
This production was good from start to finish. Walter’s script features cute, funny dialog, yet allows the actors the freedom to add some clever improv into the mix. This is a smart choice as it allows this excellent cast an opportunity to show off their comic talents. Laura Stevens’s direction kept the play moving quickly and allowed the humor to shine through. Alonzo was particularly amusing as the King. Big and bombastic, with a tendency to try to explain his points using sock puppets, his scenes were some of the funniest in the show. Lisanne Marie was a pretty and empowered Princess that every young girl would want to be. David Demato’s bumbling, nervous Prince may not be the traditional hero, but he was smart, sensitive, and when push came to shove, he could be brave. Alex Rasovar’s Dragon was a gentle giant; someone more likely to invite you to tea than try to eat you. Even more comic moments were provided by Chelsea Palano as the Princess’s Nurse and B.J. Thorne as the Prince’s Valet. The couple, smitten with each other at first sight, spent much of the play chasing after each other, literally and figuratively. Palano and Thorne both showed a gift for slapstick and broad humor and used it to great effect. A slapstick chase involving Palano, Thorne, Marie, and Demato was so well done that many of the children in the audience were screaming with laughter and jumping up and down in their seats.
Aaron Mastin’s bright, colorful scenery set the storybook mood from the time the audience entered the theater. Cully Long’s costumes showed influences from various styles and periods and featured a dragon motif. His Dragon costume was marvelous and made Rasovar look as though he’d just stepped from the pages of Alice in Wonderland.
The Last of the Dragons is a wonderful production of an amusing and entertaining play. It is sure to delight children and parents alike.
Top 13 best Kids show to see this summer in Edinburgh says Kelly Apter.
Setting out to challenge gender stereotypes, while still harnessing the fun and magic of fairytales, this show by Manhattan Children’s Theatre is about princes, princesses, dragons and a new way of rescuing.
Pleasance Courtyard, 5–31 Aug, 12pm
This second dragon event caught my eye because it’s based on a short story by late great writer E Nesbit (she of ‘Railway Children’ and Bastable series fame) and I have always been a bit of a fan of her works. The show follows the story of a prince and princess who wish to break away from their traditional roles in life, as they discover the secrets of the last living dragon on earth. The adaptation comes courtesy of award-winning production company Manhattan Children’s Theatre, who have assembled a highly trained and experienced Scotland-based cast. Pleasance Courtyard, from 5 until 31 Aug.
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Members of the Audience!
I took a five year old, a six year old, a 22 year old (!) and myself along to this show and we all loved it so much! The humour was fantastic, comedic timings superb and all cast being “easy on the eye” helped too! A very professional and enjoyable show. My five year old and six year old said it was THE best show they have been to this year (we saw quite a few this year!) I would actually love to see it again! Well done and thank you for making me laugh so much!
So it says ‘Children’s Show’ on the tin…but this is so much more…the tightness of the acting, the humour delivered on both levels to grown-ups and children, the charm of the story and its message are all there and this is just FUN!
Whoever you are, you might just like this…
We went to ‘Last of the Dragons’ show today with our two grandchildren, aged 3 and 6.
It was absolutely charming. The two boys were entranced throughout. They thoroughly enjoyed the show from start to end.
Thank you so much. We will look out for your next show in 2016 and take them to that one!
In the meantime, the two boys want you to read the book. It is a great story!
I saw this show yesterday with my 2 nieces (aged 9 and 5) and nephew (aged 7) and we all really enjoyed it very much. It’s a great family show with audience participation and lots of laughs. Highly recommended.
I took my children to see this and was by far the best show we have seen in the Festival this year.
Caelan aged 6
“I loved it! and even got to swap places with the Prince on stage”