OKAY, so once upon a time a humble commoner fought for the hand of a princess, battled all manner of evil kings and giants, slayed a fire-breathing dragon and won the love of his life. It’s the gold standard stuff of family fairy tales.
And they all lived happily ever after, right? Well…
Be prepared to have your expectations turned upside down in Dragon Slayer, a state of the art special effects spectacular at mighty Warwick Castle. Because this new take on the story of brave Guy of Warwick doesn’t follow formula.
No spoilers but have the paper hankies ready at the end. There were a fair few tears shed at the opening night of this revised version of a production which was last performed at the castle back in 2019 before Covid put the swords and sorcery on ice.
It’s a terrific tale of knights of old, packed with good old-fashioned derring do, clean cut heroes, a beautiful princess and swarthy villains, plus swordplay stunts courtesy of a cast who have added oomph to fight scenes in movies and TV ranging from Star Wars to Game of Thrones.
There are no fewer than five horses on stage at times, a dull-witted giant who owes much to the Harry Potter films, flames and fireworks aplenty and, of course, the dragon, who makes an appearance in the second half of the show.
Remarkable light mapping projections on the castle walls breathe fiery life into the creature, and give the impression that the towers are ablaze and crumbling under the beast’s brutal attack. It’s clever stuff and needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
The action plays out not just on the wide raised stage but also in the aisles of a seated audience – a welcome change from the last incarnation of the show which entailed watching the first half on the jousting field then walking uphill to the castle courtyard for the finale.
A word on choosing seats. If you want to be close to the action, and the various arrivals and departures of characters, go for a central aisle ticket; if you want to be closer to the light show, opt for tickets to the left of the seating map.
There’s joy, sadness and humour as the story plays out, and the fighting sequences are well executed. If you have small children, be warned that a scene where a screaming woman is about to be burned at the stake is pretty intense for a family-friendly show.
And although it’s not rock concert level, it may be loud for small kids, so take headphones or earplugs just in case they’re needed. The show has a half-hour interval, by the way, to stock up at the various food and drink outlets or queue for a convenience break.
It all ends in fireworks, like all the best shows, with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs” all but guaranteed. Oh, and yes, Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire on the way out.
All in all, a fun family night out high on thrills, spills and spectacle. Dragon Slayer runs nightly until August 21, except August 14 – see the Dragon Slayer portal for booking and more info. For all events head to www.warwick-castle.com