Friday, 9 March 2012

How To Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular, March 8, 2012 ****

By RZO Dragon Productions, Global Creatures & DreamWorks Animation
Hisense Arena, March 8 to 11, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

 Toothless and Hiccup fly away from Red Death

FORGET DINOSAURS! IT IS FIRE-BREATHING DRAGONS that now rule the earth, and they were alive and flying, terrorising and charming the 5000 audience at the premiere of How To Train Your Dragon.

This arena spectacular, directed ambitiously and deftly by Nigel Jamieson, began its global tour in Melbourne last night, to the unbridled glee and open-mouthed astonishment of the enormous crowd at Hisense arena.

This is really a show for the child of the 21st century as it is a digital technology dream that parallels video games and 3D movies and relies on form over content. 

Cutting edge, animatronic technology marries with puppetry, projections, pyrotechnics, aerial and ground acrobatics, martial arts and hip hop, as these mythical creatures battle their human foes.

Toothless and Hiccup

The tons of equipment suspended overhead are soon forgotten as these fantastical creatures come to life, develop individual personalities, engage with their human friends and enemies who battle with them and even fly on their backs over our heads.

The other star of the production is the jaw dropping, 3D projections by Dan Potra that catapult characters and audience into a vivid, magical, sensurround landscape of Viking villages, oceans, forests, mountains, dungeons and even a fiery dragon’s lair.

This production, based on the Oscar nominated, DreamWorks animated movie, tells the story of hapless Hiccup, a young Viking, played on opening night by Hollywood actor, Riley Miner, who shares the role with Australian, Rarmian Newton.

Hiccup and his young friends must catch and train their own dragons as a tribal initiation, or risk exile from their tribe.

However, Hiccup develops an unlikely friendship with his young dragon, Toothless, and learns that these feared creatures are misunderstood.

Riley stuns us by flying above us, perched precariously on the back of Toothless, tumbling to what could be his death, only to be caught mid-air or hanging from the dragon’s fin.

Sonny Tilders and The Creature Technology Company, the animatronics arm of Global Creatures, created 24 astoundingly lifelike dragons for the show, including the largest and most awe-inspiring animatronic creature, Red Death that breathes smoke and fire.

Toothless may be a mechanical beast, but he has a complex range of expressions and movements that communicate thoughts and feelings as if he were a living being.

The dragons may be overwhelmingly huge, but the human cast is equally impressive but on a smaller scale.

American stunt performer, Gemma Nguyen displays exceptional physical dexterity as Astrid, the most skilful dragon slayer, in the role she shares with Australian performer, Sarah McCreanor.

Robert Morgan is Hiccup’s father, the brawny tribal leader, Stoick, and Will Watkins plays the gruff warrior, Gobber, who trains the dragon slayers.

The audience is entertained by plenty of antics from Hiccup’s dragon-slaying pals including chubby, bubbly Fishlegs (Dexter Mayfield), Ruffnut (Virackhaly Ngeth), Tuffnut (Frace Luke Mercado) and Snotlout (Godefroy Ryckewaert), although they are dwarfed by the dragons.

The evocative music by John Powell and Icelandic songwriter, Jónsi, creates an atmospheric soundscape, Phil Lethlean’s lighting and Peter Hylenski’s sound design add atmospheric texture and Gavin Robins aerial choreography is often dazzling.

The dialogue is often inaudible in the flurry of activity and noise in the first 30 minutes and the story is thin and does not explore the potentially profoundly emotional layers of relationships, the danger and passion that is inherent in such a story.

Perhaps the management of the dragons and manipulation of the machinery absorbs so much energy and time that the content is secondary. Perhaps, with further development over the next few months as the show starts its world tour, the emotional layers will evolve more fully.

If your children were impressed by Walking With Dinosaurs, these dragons will knock their socks off –and set their hair on fire at the same time.

By Kate Herbert

Nightmare & Viking

No comments:

Post a Comment