Q&A with Derek Bond
13 February 2020
1) The brand-new family adventure show Dragons and Mythical Beasts invites us to enter a world of magical myths and legends – can you tell us a bit more about the story?
We meet Chiron, who trained all the great heroes in the Greek myths – Perseus, Jason, Heracles – he’s looking for some new heroes, and has some challenges for the audience to pass. Pass all six tests, and the audience will become official heroes!
2) What inspired you to create this show?
My daughter is obsessed with myths – Greek, Roman, Norse, they are such great stories and contain fantastic creatures. Following Dinosaur World Live, the team and I were looking for the next challenge, and mythical creatures seemed like the perfect fit: when we were researching Dinosaur World Live we found that ancient people had discovered dinosaur fossils and thought they were dragons, or found two skeletons of different creatures in the same place and thought they were one terrifying beast, and then wrote amazing stories about them. Max Humphries (puppet designer and maker) and I are also both keen players of Dungeons and Dragons, so we spend a lot of our spare time with imaginary creatures.
3) The show calls for brave heroes in its audience! How are you making it interactive?
Chiron selects a “champion” from the audience for each challenge, so a member of the audience has to come face to face with each creature. Some are more fearsome than others – the Baku is particularly cute – and some require a little bit of problem solving. After the show, everyone gets the opportunity to meet some of the less terrifying creatures.
4) From the creatures in the Harry Potter franchise to the heroes in the Percy Jackson series, children are being introduced to a fantastic array of myths and legends these days – why do you think these creatures enchant audiences so much, and what makes this show different?
Writers are always drawn back to ancient myths and legends, there is such a treasure trove to draw on. And for readers or audiences, it lets your imagination run wild – what kind of creature can you imagine, what could it do? For this show, we’ve taken inspiration from myths from around the world, not just European myths.
5) The show features well-known and beloved creatures like a Unicorn, a Dragon and the Tooth Fairy, but also feature some lesser known beasts such as the Stone Troll, the Japanese Baku and the mysterious Indrik. Can you tell us more about them and, why you chose these particular beasts?
We wanted to include creatures that audiences might not have heard of before, and especially those from other cultures. The Stone Troll is based on Norse mythology from Scandinavia and the Baku is from Japanese folklore (the Chinese had similar legends about a creature called mo). The Indrik features in Slavic folktales – it’s a creature with a giant horn that lives in the forest; in some pictures it was similar to a unicorn or a rhino. We have mixed it with another Slavic creature, the Leshy – a spirit of the forest, and added a touch of the legend of the Ceryneian Hind from the tasks of Heracles and created something new.
6) What is your favourite mythical creature and why?
I love the chimeras – creatures that are made of parts of other creatures. The Chimera in the tasks of Heracles was part lion, part goat, had a snake for a tail and breathed fire. It’s a lot of fun to take parts of different animals and imagine how they might fit together to make a new creature.
7) Which creature are you most excited to get in the rehearsal room and then up on stage?
I am looking forward to meeting George, the small dragon. But Juno (the big dragon) is going to be spectacular – Max creates puppets that are huge, but also have an incredible level of detail. It’s amazing to watch the puppeteers bring them to life.
7) You also wrote and directed the West End family favourite Dinosaur World Live, which has proved hugely popular across the UK and has now gone international, currently on its first major US tour! Do you think audiences will love the Dragon as much as the T-Rex?
Titus the T-rex was pretty scary, and I have a feeling Juno will provoke similar screams! But whereas Titus is an uncontrollable hunting and eating machine, Juno is also very, very clever. Which could make her even more dangerous…
8) Why should people come and see Dragons and Mythical Beasts and what do you hope audiences will take away?
If you’ve never seen a dragon or a unicorn, come and see Dragons and Mythical Beasts and you won’t just see them, you might even get to meet them too! Imagine the bragging rights at school when you tell your friends that you defeated a stone troll, or befriended a Baku. I hope that people will leave inspired to find out more about these amazing creatures and the stories behind them, and then go and create their own stories and creatures – and maybe even make giant puppets of them!