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The Snow Dragon, The Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome

Devised by Tall Stories 

Director: Toby Mitchell

Reviewer: RL Bartholomew

It’s New Year’s Eve night and the wolves are about. These rough and tumble guys are out to teach a life lesson to young Billy –  a  spoilt, indulged and mollycoddled little goat – and it’s one lesson he would bleat loudly about, and probably won’t ever forget.

Skittish and highly strung, Billy (Danny Hendrix) is a tight bundle of comic malevolence brought up to believe that “Life is fun when you are number one.”   His pushy Mum (Amy Harris – who also plays Mrs. Wolf and Rosie the Piglet) and bossy Dad (Glyn Williams, doubling too as Spike the Hedgehog and Mr. Wolf) tell Billy about the legendary Snow Dragon who loves berries, and who brings presents to good children on New Year’s Eve.

Soon Billy is dispatched by them on a berry collecting mission, his head chock-full of wild dreams about fresh presents and a deluge of compliments from the legendary Snow Dragon. Along the way, however, he meets and (true to form) cons his best friends Rosie the Piglet and Spike the Hedgehog, pinching their acorns and mushrooms. Justice, happily, is a short hop away in this lively three-hander. Billy is soon cornered by the surprisingly upstanding Mr. and Mrs. Wolf, and their less-than-tender telling-off leaves him feeling as shame-faced as any goat could feel.

Directed by Toby Mitchell, who adapted the story from his own wonderful book, The Snow Dragon is a heart-warming and festive cautionary tale for children aged 3 to 99.  It’s all about being generous, kind and having faith in the power of goodness. Despite the sugary moralising, some foot tapping tunes (from Jollygoodtunes) broad humour and audience engagement keep the multiple-generation crowd happy throughout.

Coaxed by Mitchell, the three actors each bring a thrilling physicality to their roles. Amy Harris’ rib-ticklingly muddy piglet is a star turn which keeps the young ones chortling, while Glyn Williams’ Spike the half-blind Hedgehog is a hilariously droll, bumbling foil for the braggadocious Billy. Impressively, lead actor Danny Hendrix manages to make Billy lovable and vulnerable even at his most dastardly.

Nagged into naughtiness by his preening parents, he is the bad boy who tells his friends “we are not equal” that he is “cooler than cool” and how he is “proud to be part of the one percent.” Reassuringly, even the under-fives take their cue and boo, and with some gusto.

Tall Stories breathes wonderful life into tales and in this spirited production, Toby Mitchell’s assured direction, Will Evans’ lighting and Polly Sullivan’s costumes and minimalist set will take you deep into Snow Dragon country, which is – of course- a fabulous place to be, especially this time of year.

Runs until 7 January 2018 | Image: Tall Stories

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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