It was once said of punk that it can’t sing, can’t dance, and can’t play. If not an entirely accurate description of the musical "Dragon," devised by Fizz and Chips Theatre Company, it’s perhaps not so wide of the mark. Singing, unquestionably better during duets and chorus, often falters to be heard, hit, or sustain the right note, especially during solos. Then there’s its incompatible tales of a standard dragon terrorising…you know the rest, and a contemporary love story about a bad boy and a good girl. In many respects there’s arguably precious little to like about "Dragon." Even while there’s everything to love about Fizz and Chips, whose raw, unabashed talent, consumes you in all engulfing waves.
Looking like a slapped together review by second year dramasoc students, "Dragon" tries to get deep and meaningful about all things masculine in a juvenile kind of way. It’s standard fare: a tritely selfish Setanta and a Steinbeck loving Fiona trotting out another trite tale about commitment, friendship and betrayal. No prizes for guessing who betrays who, and for who gets the lecture and who gets a dirty look. Disrupting proceedings is a secondary tale about a dragon, a sword, sons on quests and avenging of fathers. Probably. It’s not easy to tell, less easy to care about, and completely impossible to like as it keeps interrupting the far more charming Setanta and Fiona while offering little by way of commentary or insight. Like a meaning in search of a metaphor and struggling to find it, because there wasn’t all that much meaning there to begin with, you start to wish these dragon slayers would hurry up and slay their dragon. That way the honest moments that “Dragon" seems almost embarrassed by can pepper through, without distraction, with all their heart and humour. Along with the occasional good tune.
If not taking itself too seriously is one of “Dragon’s" many charms, not taking itself seriously enough is one of its crimes. Musically, structurally, and compositionally, there’s some impressive things going on. Kevin Murphy’s design might amount to twelve lightbulbs, five chairs, some shawls, swords, and the cleverest way of suggesting a phone onstage, but it does exactly what’s needed. Primarily because directors Lindsey Dawson and Martha Fitzgerald knock it out of the park with some superb choreography. Don’t misunderstand, Fizz and Chips won’t be giving Dancing with the Stars anything to worry about, but when it comes to communicating with little else to play with but your cast, Dawson and Fitzgerald are hugely impressive, crafting a physical vocabulary that enriches both dialogue and singing. And both are often in need of enrichment, even if both can be funny and smart at times.
When it comes to music and singing, "Dragon" might playfully self-depreciate its musical abilities, but it really should have embraced them with greater rigour. For when it’s good, it's very very good. From Hamilton to Hollywood, Fizz and Chips know their stuff, having a strong understanding of how to structure a musical. With Ruadhan Mew’s musical compositions delivering an impressive moment or three. If individually Niamh Murphy, Gráinne Blumenthal and Orlaith Ní Chearra can prove hit and miss, their harmonies and chemistry are close to Fascinating Aida level delightful, with Ní Chearra’s Fiona proving utterly captivating. Connor Lyon might have little to do, but he shows some clever comic timing and, with Blumenthal, delivers an exquisite mother/son duet that almost stops you in your tracks. While Eoin Ó’Dubhghaill has enough swagger and presence to make his fooler than cool Setanta land the right side of credible, both presence and swagger need to be kicked up a notch. As do some rather modest vocals that can be difficult to hear, even if his comic timing and smarmy charm are impeccable.
Likeable, winning, with its all kinds of everything looking to be some kind of wonderful, "Dragon" is a whimsical, musical car crash. It may look like student self-indulgence but there’s a wildly contagious, couldn’t give a fuckness about it all. A refreshing audacity that’s anarchic enough to want to try something simply because it wants to try it. It knows it’s not the finished article, but "Dragon" was never intended to sail on water so much as test the waters of what might be possible. It hopes you’ll like it, and you probably will; just maybe not as much as they’d like you to. Or, then again, maybe an awful lot more than you should.
"Dragon," by Fizz and Chips, runs at The New Theatre until February 29.
For more information, visit The New Theatre.