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Zog live on stage Q&A

Find out more about the puppetry, live action and musical show Zog, swooping into Sussex in Feb

The 2020 tour of Zog, based on the well-loved Julia Donaldson book, kicks off at The Capitol, Horsham on Thurs 6 to Sat 8 Feb, with a host of new songs. Muddy spoke to the new director Emma Kilbey about musical earworms, the technical challenges of flying dragons and how she’s hoping to instil a touch of Muppet-like magic.

What’s new for the 2020 version of the show? 

My main focus is to really reward the kids who love, cherish and recognise the characters from the books.

We have utterly gorgeous puppets which we’re trying to make as central as possible because they are very reminiscent of Axel Scheffler’s drawings which children with immediately identify with.

We have around 12 new songs that feel like instant classics – they’ve got a Disney feel to them. They’re written by Joe Stilgoe, son of Richard Stilgoe.

We’ve got some bits for Mums and Dads as well, some little in jokes like asking at the start if anyone’s seen Dragon’s Den.

Is it tricky mixing human and puppet action? 

We try to establish a woodland community with lots of puppets. Humans start the narration then they bring on puppet version of themselves. We then try to give it over to the puppets so that the children are looking mainly at them. There’s a real art to that, the cast are experts.

Some of the best bits are like some of The Muppet Christmas Carol, like the film’s singing veg and so on. I know that’s a big claim but I mean I just want to capture that joy!

Are there particular technical challenges? 

There are different mechanisms. We’re having to try and make the puppets fly and we’ve got all kinds of poles and rods and things to be inserted and bits of fishing line but it has to look slick. To make the puppet come to life you also have to see the wonder in the actor’s face.

Is converting a well-loved book a pressure? 

It’s a very, very loved story and even a lot of the adults will have expectations because their children love it so much, so it’s quite a responsibility. I don’t want any child leaving saying “that wasn’t like the book”, I’d be heartbroken actually.

We’ve got a copy of the book open all the time to keep refering to the feelings it gives us – to think ‘why is that bit… funny… or beautiful… or sad.’

Give us a taster of the new songs

There’s one called I Can Do It, about being able to fly – because Zog is so enthusiastic. There’s another called I’ll Be Someone about being comfortable in your own skin.

Is it interactive?

To a point, Madame Dragon talks to the audience about setting up the school environment then we get more into the story but there will still be some swooping over the audience.

What is it about children and dragons? 

It is this whole trendy zeitgeist thing. I think they’re mysterious and fantastical and [whispers] not real. With Zog I think it’s also because he’s a little boy and has the same fears and problems boys and girls have, he just happens to be a dragon.

So, are we going to get earworms?

I think we have a combination of a really great skilled cast and some beautiful songs – I defy anyone not to leave the theatre singing at least one of them!

Zog opens at The Capitol, Horsham, Thurs 6  – Sat 8 Feb then comes to Brighton later. 

Photos are by Helen Maybanks and include previous cast members.

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