BAC (Battersea Arts Centre), London SW11
Opened 3 January, 1991

Mikhail Sergeyevich is conspicuous by his absence from this adaptation of Yevgeny Schwarz's 1943 examination of attitudes towards totalitarianism. "The only way to be free of dragons is to have one of your own," says one of the cowed villagers to the idealistic knight intent on liberating them against their will, and once freed they show an exasperating compulsion to set up a new dragon in the same place.

Occasional longueurs in the core text are combatted by the company's insistence on stepping outside it at every opportunity - fomenting a theatrical workers' revolution which will lead to "the withering away of the stage" and demanding proletarian solidarity, i.e. audience participation. This being Britain, of course, they never get it (except during a climactic food-fight); we remain obstinately passive, content with our own dragons of performer-audience hierarchy. For the most part the piece transcends the bogs of earnest meta-textual postmodernism, and apparently goes down riotously amongst the newly dragonless punters of eastern Europe. Here and now, though, it falls rather between two stools: one still feels a little obliged to be more than simply entertained by it, and irked at having to make the effort.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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