Review - Saint George and the Dragon at the National Theatre
In 2009, the National produced Richard Bean's buoyant portrait of England across the four centuries of immigration to these shores, England People Very Nice. Now, on the same stage, Rory Mullarkey offers an appropriately larky stage version of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon, in which the knight - a bit like Superman - comes to the rescue of a community being terrorised by a dragon that demands the annual sacrifice of a young maiden, from medieval times to the present.
Here the dragon takes human form in the creepy disguise of Julian Bleach, an insinuatingly sinister actor who on this occasion overdoes the melodrama a bit. But then the whole teeming show - with a cast of over 20, plus six musicians, and a big imposing set by Rae Smith that employs the theatre's revolve to bring on different environments across the ages, including a vista of office skyscrapers at the end - feels over-ripe and overdone.
It's obviously intended as an allegory of Britain over the years, as we are variously terrorised by forces we can't control - the latest being Brexit, though the specific threat is not spelled out. Instead, we get a late call here for a return to a simpler age.
But the play and its exposition feel clunky and sometimes confusing. Why exactly are we watching this at all? John Hefferman, as George, strikes appropriately heroic attitudes, but even he can't save the play as he tries to save England.
Saint George and the Dragon Tickets are available now.