A FIERY dragon steals the show in Northern Ballet's enchanting tale of wizardry and passion.
It’s not so much that the puppet Dragon — brilliantly handled by Matthew Koon who also doubles up as Merlin on other nights — upstages the superb cast of dancers, as that it adds another-wordly touch to already magical events.
Riku Ito as Merlin joyously captures the essence of youth in his spirited, exciting dancing while deftly bringing an emotional power to his fantastical journey.
Best known as an ancient wizard, Merlin’s story follows him growing up, born from the gods yet raised by a blacksmith.
Drew McOnie's inspiring first ballet weaves together the story of the mythical wizard and the real world.
Stunning visuals, costumes and lighting create a wondrous spectacle as the action takes place in front of a wall of gold leaf in designer Colin Richmond's lavish set, matched by Anna Watson’s superb lighting.
A huge tree is set burning to breathtaking effect.
A steam forge serves in the sword-making in Merlin’s home, giant embossed trees litter the battle scenes and large Gothic archways act as prison and castle.
There’s a great cinematic score by Grant Olding, perfectly complimenting the dance with the Northern Ballet Sinfonia conductor Jonathan Lo building soundscapes for the non-stop action.
In this World Premier tour, where several roles are alternated by the dancers, director and choreographer McOnie portrays the young wizard doing battle with soldier Morgan Le Fay, as he forges the mighty Excalibur and becomes the kingmaker.
The smoke and fire-breathing dragon is tamed to his side by Merlin’s kindness and charms the audience to the last, even after several curtain calls!
Meanwhile, a pair of attack dogs puppets also menace our hero.
Minju Kang is magesterial as Morgan, switching from fighter to seducer, Joseph Taylor as Uther and Abigail Prudames as Ygraine sparkle as the lovers, while Alessandra Bramante brings warmth and skilled technique to the role of the Blacksmith.
The entire cast, bar a couple of minor blips, are a delight from start to finish.
Merlin casts a spell that even dragons can’t shake off.
Merlin is at Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday November 6.