THEY’VE rebuilt the gatehouse tower since it burned to the ground three years ago when the dragon laid waste to Warwick Castle despite valiant attempts to defeat the fire-breathing beast.
Which may be just as well given that the colossal critter is hungry for a second helping and a rematch with brave Guy of Warwick. Yes, just like the best blockbusters, the dragonslayer is back.
Dragon Slayer Volume 2 is this summer’s sequel to the big special-effects spectacular which last rocked the castle in 2019, before the pandemic put life as we knew it on indefinite hold.
During the break, organisers say they’ve made the megabucks production bigger and better – it’s Warwick Castle’s marquee brand-building event of the year and an opportunity to showcase the historic venue’s ability to stage major productions.
So what’s new?
Well, the tragic love story played out in Volume 1 will be still be central to the plot as Sir Guy goes up against that fiery 50-foot tall dragon but there are new stunts, special effects and staging.
We’re promised giants, more knights on horseback, more lights and pyrotechnics and a bigger cast of characters, leading up to a truly explosive night-time finale.
Oh, and there’ll be trouble with the Dun Cow, a mythical beast reputed to be the size of a double-decker bus and, so the story goes, originally slain by Guy of Warwick on Dunsmore Heath.
But that’s an udder story…
Organisers have listened, too, to feedback from 2019 when the show was split across two sites, with a walk uphill from the jousting field to the castle courtyard awkwardly breaking continuity.
This time, all the action takes place in the castle courtyard, and rather than last time’s all-standing setting, there’ll be tiered stand seating, with premium proximity Gold Circle tickets available.
Crucially, you’ll be at the centre of the action, with stage walkways running through, between and around blocks of seats. There’ll be overhead effects, too, making it a fully immersive affair.
And, to ensure surprises, there’ll be cast members in among the audience so you never know quite who you might meet.
The star of the show, however, will once more be the state-of-the-art projection mapping light show, which last time out cleverly recreated those crumbling towers during the inferno.
The production will still be split into two halves, with an interval so that families can visit the street food stalls and bars around the courtyard, take a comfort break, or just stretch their legs.
Warwick, of course, is no stranger to dragons. It was the location for filming scenes for the hit Merlin TV series which next year marks its 15th anniversary and starred Owen Morgan, John Hurt, Richard Wilson, Anthony Head and Angel Coulby.
The castle transformed one of its towers into Merlin: The Dragon Tower, complete with a pre-show featuring Wilson and a special effects dragon which magically interacted with visitors. I spent a great day with members of the cast who visited for the launch of the attraction.
Dragon Slayer Volume 2 runs from August 12 to 21, with the exception of an already sold out August 14, and tickets are priced from £19 up to premium £36 Gold Circle seating closest to the action.
It’s a separately ticketed event so not included in general castle admission. Gates will open at 6.30pm each night, with the show starting at 8pm and an expected finish time of around 10pm.
Nick Blofeld, Divisional Director at Warwick Castle, says: “This has always been a hugely popular show for us, but we have taken it to the next level as it returns for the first time since the pandemic.
“This year, we’re bringing guests together seated in the castle courtyard so that they can witness the action happening around and feel closer than ever, so it really does feel like a new show.”
Note that show images are all from the 2019 show. I’ll bring you new preview pictures once the show goes into full production rehearsals.