Reviewed by Sarah Bryan
The Wycombe Swan was awash with the sound of lively young kiddies, just out of school for the day; some clutching the Zog book and some dressed as dragons or princesses and bouncing around full of excitement and anticipation of seeing the theatre production of Zog, based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and brought to the stage by Freckle Productions.
Although only formed in 2017, Freckle Productions have already built up a reputation for creating unique family friendly theatre experiences.
All children love a sticker and it was a nice gesture to see each child given a big bright Zog sticker upon arrival. You could see their little faces light up and look around at others and feel part of something special. There was also a super cute plush toy of the well-loved orange dragon for sale at the merchandise stand for £20 but the sticker seemed to far outweigh the toy in popularity!
It was great to see Wycombe Swan bustling with families and plenty of people were enjoying beverages and snacks from the huge range on offer in the foyer area. The theatre was clean and tidy and the facilities well stocked. All the staff were proactive and helpful and happy. The car park is literally right next door which is so convenient!
Booster seats were available to hire for £1 which is a change to the previous time we came to The Swan as they were given out free although by charging for the hire now brings them in line with other theatres in the county.
As the show began the build-up took a while and many children sat near me, including my own, were somewhat confused over what was happening, who was who and what part of the story they were at, “What are they doing?” “Where’s Zog?” “Why are they doing that noise?” but once it moved forward and became more familiar to the audience it then was able to grasp those young imaginations as they became completely in awe.
The absolute star for us was Emily Benjamin who plays Princess Pearl and ensemble. She had a wonderful voice that carried beautifully right up the to the ceiling and filled the auditorium and her energy on stage was amazing.
The entire cast were enthusiastic and energetic, and the performance had such a quirkiness to it with the unusual use of sounds that make the kids giggle. They were a very multi-talented bunch who had the audience clapping and cheering and wanting more as they combined their acting skills with puppetry and song in a panto type fashion. Us grownups loved the music too!
My girls loved it when the dragons flew out to the crowd and they didn’t love it that “Madam Dragon was a meanie as she’s not a meanie in the book” For us adults, she felt a bit like a panto Dame!
It must be a huge challenge to adapt a children’s storybook for the stage; how can you add meat to the bones of a 10-minute story? Overall it was done really well but we felt the last part where Princess Pearl gets captured was unnatural to the flow of the novel we know so well. Our girls wished they could have seen Pearl helping lots of people being a flying doctor instead of being trapped and waiting to be rescued.
A beautifully lit backdrop set with twinkling stars and clouds was a huge hit and the simple yet effective “climbing frame” type equipment on the stage worked really well for achieving the various aspects required.
There were lots of happy little faces leaving the theatre and it was a success with our two and yes we had to read the book again at bedtime tonight…
Tickets cost from £15 to £17 (booking fees may apply).
Zog Live is at the Wycombe Swan from 13-14 March 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.wycombeswan.co.uk or call the box office on 01494 512 000.
Wycombe Swan, St. Mary Street, High Wycombe, HP11 2XE | 01494 512000