By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
A few years ago I was approached to co write the story of the Dragons of Azrael based on someone else’s idea. It was a live stage show that would take place in the Armagh Planetarium primarily for school kids. It was to do with Northern Ireland culture I think but not sure to be honest but ti was my first paid writing job.
My direction was we had life sized dragon puppets including a dragon egg that was about to hatch and bring forth a brand new era for the planet of Azrael. It had to be thirty minutes long and tell a complete story to appeal to younger audiences on one set with one human actor.
I hit upon the idea of a planet devoid of art, music and imagination. Their great ancient leader Azrael retreated to the Chamber of the Ancients, shrouded in myth and legend, awaiting for the day of the Chosen one would be born and with him imagination would be restored when dragons would again sing and dance and indulge in imagination through art and writing.
The cast consisted of one human, Arriel, a man of mystery who lived among the dragons. He would witness the birth of baby Azazel from an egg. Azazel was the Chosen One and immediately did something never before done on Azrael; he celebrated his birthday!
Aside from Azrael who would eventually peek from his cavern at the show’s climax, there were two other puppets. They were like Jedward, annoying mischievous twins that would witness events and comment on it to the audience. Named Anius and Arlon they would bear witness to the Chosen One’s arrival and the dawn of a new era for the dragons.
I wrote the show very much to make it as interactive with the kids for example when Arriel carries Azazel in his egg to meet the kids, Azazel would say he can see their thoughts full of arts and music. It was the combined power of the kids’ minds and Azazel that would restore Azrael. It was magical for me to sit in the audience and watch the kids’ reactions to interacting with the dragons. There is something very satisfying about watching your words come to life right before your eyes. It’s even more satisfying to hear the kind words of the audience as they left happy having experienced something they had never seen before. A writer’s job is to connect with his audience so between my script and the dragon puppets the Dragons of Azrael certainly achieved that.
I am still very proud of the show and it’s just a pity there is no visual record of it because it was truly magical. Below is the full script for the show and maybe one day we can do a similar project to enchant a whole new generation.
The Dragons of Azrael: The Stage play
Opens on narration as scroll goes along the big screen
A Millennia ago the dragons lived side by side with man. They were the wisest of creatures, bringing magic to the world. They existed in harmony together until the dark days came.
Over time Humans and dragons drifted apart, forcing these great creatures to flee towards the stars.
Their journey was long and hard, but led by their brave leader Azrael, the largest and wisest dragon of them all, they found a new home on a distant planet many light years away.
This planet became known as Azrael in honour of their great leader and for thousands of years the dragons lived in peace.
Among them lived a human by the name Arriel, a man of mystery who became the dragons’ only friend. No one knows how he came to be there but it was said he was born with the soul of a dragon.
Arriel was wise, kind and over time became the dragons’ best friend.
From the plains of Atravor to the mountains of Astor, the dragon species flourished.
They created pictures in the purple skies with their flames and swam in the deep green seas of Aros. They laughed and sang songs in the forests and amid the fire fields of Agu they told Stories of days long gone.
As time went by the skies grew darker and Arriel knew that something was wrong…..an eerie Silence now reigned.
The fire fields that once were full of life now burned in quiet flame and the shimmering seas became dark and still.
Such was the dragons’ indolence, they had forgotten how to sing or tell stories and Laughter no longer echoed around the cliffs of Astor as their imagination died. Music and art, the very essence of their culture was lost.
But this day had been foretold long ago and whispers began of a new hope. Azrael had grown old and disappeared into the caves beneath the Chamber of the Ancients and there he remained in the hope of a rebirth.
A thousand years have since passed and it is believed that Azrael will one day return and reignite the flames of imagination through the birth of the chosen one, and until this day arrives the Chamber of Ancients sits watching and waiting…..Waiting for the return of the Imagination Dragon
SCENE 1: CHAMBER OF THE ANCIENTS
It’s dark and the lights come up on a large dragon cocoon in which we see Arriel waking up from a sleep. He rubs his eyes and gets to his feet, brushing down his robes. He checks his wristwatch
Arriel: Oh it’s almost time, time to go, time……
He suddenly sees the audience. He walks slowly towards them looking at them curiously as if it’s the first time he’s ever seen humans. He has a puzzled smile on his face which breaks into a smile of delight. He rubs his cheek with one hand looking again at the kids.
Arriel: What No scales? that’s new. Oh, hello, you look like me. I think I’m the wrong place. That’s new too. Did you all fall through a hole in time and space? Wait a minute, am I on Earth?
(Kids respond) Arriel shakes his head.
Arriel: Are you School children?. That’s not right. I shouldn’t be here at all. Who are you anyway? What school are you from?
Arriel: (insert name of school) My, that’s a coincidence. I once knew a great dragon called (insert name of school). I bet you know him. Is he still teaching mathematics? (Kids respond) He’s not? (Looks at his watch again) Aw, school I remember it well. Do you still have music and drawing and tell stories? (He gets excited when he mentions them) I bet you do. Do any of you sing too? (Kids respond) and dance? (Kids respond) Brilliant. You’re so talented and lucky.
Arriel claps his hands in delight but looks at his watch once more. He frowns as if sad he has to go.
Arriel: I really must go, it’s nearly time. Goodbye.
He turns as if to go then pauses, slowly spinning on his heel and facing them once more. He has a finger on his lips as if he’s just had an idea.
Arriel: Hang on a minute. I think such talent should be rewarded. Would you like to come on a journey with me? (Kids respond)
Arriel straightens to his full height with a smile on his face.
Arriel: I was hoping you’d say that.
Lights tighten down on him leaving the stage in darkness. You could slowly focus the lights on his face only before the journey to Azrael making him appear ghostly and mysterious.
Arriel: Have you ever looked up at the stars and wondered if someone was looking back? Out there in the cosmos are countless worlds where other children sing and dance and tell stories of wondrous things just like you. But the planet I come from has forgotten how to do that. It’s a world of dragons where all the wonderful things you do in school have been lost. Some say the man in the moon took their imaginations and kept them for himself, the naughty man. So hold hands, and come with me across the cosmos to the planet Azrael, the dragon homeworld. The Chamber of Ancients is a very old, very special place where magic is about to happen with your help. Are you ready to help me bring back a world of pure imagination? (Kids respond) Then repeat after me; Azrael, Azrael, Azrael.
(Kids repeat this with Arriel as lights swirl and flicker and Arriel suddenly whirls round arms outstretched) Here we go!
(Big screen erupts into a journey through the solar system then out into space and closing in on Azrael the planet. They are suddenly in the Chamber of Ancients.)
SCENE 2: THE CHAMBER OF THE ANCIENTS
Arriel looks about then puts his finger on his lips. He approaches the children and says in a low but excited voice spreading his arms.
Arriel: This is it. The Chamber of the Ancients on the planet Azrael. It is a world where dragon song once filled the skies but now only silence reigns. But I brought you here to witness a new dawn which will bring art and song and all the wonderful things born of imagination back to Azrael. But I need you to think good thoughts and help make it happen. Can you do that for me please? (Kids respond) Excellent.
(Arriel suddenly freezes as a cracking sound is made. He looks round but cannot see anything.)
Arriel: Kids, did you hear that? (Wait for kids to respond before more cracking sounds appear. At this point the kids will see the egg rocking and moving as the baby dragon is trying to hatch free from it. Arriel could pretend to miss it letting the kids direct him. Finally he sees it and rushes over.)
Arriel; (knocking on the shell) Hello, is someone there? (He puts his ear to the egg which suddenly rocks quickly in response to his voice making him jump back. He looks to the kids.) What should I do? There’s a baby dragon stuck in there. (Kids respond telling him to help open the egg. He gives the thumbs up.) Ok, keep those imaginations coming to help the baby dragon, kids. (He gently opens the top of the egg allowing a baby dragon’s head to pop out, all wide eyed and excited.)
Azazel: Wow, it’s colourful out here. (He looks at Arriel) Who are you? Where’s your scales? Aren’t you a little short for a dragon?
Arriel: I’m tall enough for my species little one. What’s your name?
Arriel: Welcome Azazel. Come all the way out and join us.
(Arriel gestures to the kids. Azazel looks at them gives a little squeal and retreats slightly back into his egg.) Don’t be afraid. They are friends. Can’t you feel their good thoughts?
(Azazel comes back out and looks at the kids again. He looks at Arriel).
Azazel: Is that what it is? I thought it was me wanting to fart.
Arriel: Ha Ha Ok, let me help you. I’ll carry you to meet them.
Azazel: Don’t take me out of my egg.
Arriel: Ah you Dragons are such fusspots. (He lifts the egg from its perch and carries Azazel closer to the children. Azazel stares round him.
Azazel: Ooooh I can see their thoughts, I can see and feel Art, dancing, songs, stories and laughter all swirling round my head. Wha, wha What’s ring a ring a rosie? Eh eh…. I don’t have pockets to put a posie in!
Arriel: Slow down little one, You can really see all of that? …em that’s very interesting (Arriel is puzzled by the younglings abilities at such an early stage ) You must be the one that was prophesized Azazel. I can scarcely believe this day has come.
Azazel: It’s my birthday. I like birthdays. Can we have a party? (Addresses the kids.) Do you all have birthdays too? (Kids respond.) Ooh, I like that. Sing songs, make cards, do the birdie song. What’s a birdie?
Arriel: Would you like the children to sing you Happy Birthday?
Azazel: Would they do that? For me? Really?
Arriel: I think it may be magical. Would you sing it for him kids? (Kids respond.) Wonderful, you are all so kind. On three; one, two, three.
(The kids will sing happy birthday and Azazel will react as if it’s the greatest gift he has ever received. Arriel in the meantime will be singing too.)
Azazel: That was amazing. Such beautiful voices. You sound like angels. I can hear music in my head. Songs I’ve never heard before; how is this possible? I want to make cards and have cakes and dance until bedtime singing all the way!
Arriel looks at the kids with a huge smile on his face.
Arriel: It was your thoughts kids, all those kind and good thoughts that have helped our new friend Azazel. The prophecy is fulfilled because of you. The Imagination Child has come! (He stops as a thought occurs to him. He steps forward looking excitedly alarmed and says to the kids.)
That means Master Azrael is coming….
(Unseen by Arriel and Azazel another dragon pops up stage right from the rocks where the kids can see them. This is Anius one of a pair of mischievous twins that have heard all the commotion and come to see what’s happening.)
Anius (in a loud voice): I knew it!
He pops back down into the foliage as Arriel and Azazel turn and see no one.
Arriel (to Azazel): Did you say something?
Azazel: I’m five minutes old. I can barely talk never mind yell like that.
(Behind them, Arlon pops up, Anius’ twin unseen by Arriel and Azazel again.)
Arlon: That’s what happens when you’re eyes are on the front of your head dumbo!
(Arriel turns again but sees nothing.)
Arriel: Kids did you see anyone? (Kids respond in pantomime way. Arriel turns everywhere but where Anius and Arlon are. They keep popping up and sniggering at the human.)
Anius and Arlon: Dumb, dumb, dragon’s bum. Arriel’s a silly bun!
Arriel: Wait a minute, I know those voices. Two mischievous pups if I ever heard them. Come out now Anius and Arlon.
(Both dragons raise them heads together.)
Anius: How did you know it was us, Arry?
Arriel: It’s Arriel. And I’d know you two anywhere. Anywhere there’s trouble you two are never far behind. And you’re not supposed to be here.
Arlon: Ahh don’t say that about us (sniggering) We have scales. We’re entitled to be here. Show us your scales. Oh wait, that’s right…(sniggering again)
Anius: You have none.
Arlon: Show us your tail Arry.
Anius: Oops, hasn’t got one.
Arlon: And what about your wings?
Anius: He hasn’t got any. That’s three for three. And we haven’t got to the breathing fire out of your nose part yet. (sniggering continues)
Arlon: Well, I have seen him sneeze. What came out of his nose wasn’t natural. (they both laugh loudly)
Arriel: Enough about my nose! What are you doing here?
Arlon: Heard that strange noise and had to have a look. It was hideous and what is a happy birthday anyway?
Arriel: It is a song sung by my human friends here.
Arlon and Anius look at the kids together then look at each other then back at the kids.
Anius: When did our planet become full of fuzzy heads like Arriel? That growth on your chin is scary enough without bringing a herd of younglings in. (Addresses the kids.) Where did you lot come from then?
(Kids respond.) Never heard of it. Going back anytime soon? You don’t smell like dragons. (sniggering again)
Arlon: My eyes are watering.
Anius: You’re lucky it’s only your eyes. One sneeze and the whole chamber could go up.
Arriel: You two quite finished? You’re interrupting our celebration. You see kids, that’s why these two are always in trouble; they have no imaginations.
Anius: Celebration? You mean the new pup? That’s one funny looking egg shell. Did you leave out in the sun too long?
Azazel: No, it’s my natural colour. I’m Azazel. Would you like to sing a song?
(Anius and Arlon pause; silence hanging between them.)
Arlon: Definitely been left out in the sun too long. (laughing as Azazel)
Anius: Unless…It couldn’t be. Could he be the one?
Arlon: What one?
Anius: THE ONE. (they look at each other)
Arlon: Looks more like a minus one or maybe a two at a stretch. But not a three.
Anius: I always knew mum dropped you on your head as a baby. You dumbo. If Azazel is the one I think he is then that means Azrael will be coming.
Arlon: Azrael hasn’t been around in centuries. He’s hardly likely to come just because of a chick with a badly coloured egg and old fuzzy face here.
(Music: A loud rumble shakes the chamber and smoke billows from the back of the stage. All the characters look towards it.)
Arlon: Of course, I could be wrong. (starting to get frightened)
Arriel: Children, something wonderful is about to happen, the oldest and wisest of all the dragons is coming- Grand Master Azrael himself. Do you know what that means? You did it. All your good thoughts and wishes made the prophecy come true. (He holds the egg slightly aloft.) Behold the Imagination Child! Behold Azrael!
(Music, Smoke starts billowing from the back of the stage where the cave entrance is. A loud rumbling fills the air. Lights swirling around the cave entrance but nothing strobe like. More a vortex effect. Azrael’s head comes slowly out from the opening and looks around. Arriel bows respectfully as does Anius and Arlon.)
Arriel: (aside to the kids) I must tell you all that Master Azrael speaks only with his mind. He is so old he no longer needs to use his mouth. That is so cool. (Turns back to Azrael.)
Arriel: This is truly the most glorious day in the history of our dragon world. Welcome Lord Azrael, it is a pleasure to have you in our company
Azrael: (with a deepened strong tone) Arriel. It is good to see to see you again old friend. Tell me….Is it true? Has the chosen one been born? Is this the day that was prophesized?
Arriel: It is indeed Azrael. Behold the Imagination Child.
(Arriel carries Azazel to Azrael who sniffs him. The head could then move as if excited.)
Azazel: Hello little one. I can hear and feel you in my mind. Your thoughts and imagination is growing by the minute, very powerful indeed.
Anius: I think I just wet myself.
Arlon: Me too. Mummy!
(At this point Arriel puts the egg still containing Azazel back on the rock where he first lifted it from.)
Azrael: By what name do you go by Imagination Child?
Azazel: eh I, (pause as he is frightened) eh I am Az…Azazel.
Azrael: You are most welcome Azazel. You are the one who will bring imagination back to our world. Once again dragons will sing and dance, paint and tell stories. At last the darkness has been lifted. I felt you in my long slumber like the vibration of a spider web. My hearts lifted in joy.
Azazel: I can feel a thousand million songs to lift even the heaviest of hearts and stories that could fill the skies. And all thanks to my friends. (Arriel and Azazel gesture to the audience.)
Azrael: Children of Earth. It has been such a long time. It has been long and many a day since I flew through the skies of Earth. Tell me do you still have the Giant’s Causeway? (Kids respond.) An amazing and wonderous place. I would like to thank you for coming to help save my world.
But now I am sad that it is almost time for you to leave.
Arriel: Lord Azrael. Does this mean Alturo has been summoned?
Azrael: It does indeed Arriel. Azazel’s gift of imagination is already spreading through the air, awakening the gifts of all dragonkind. Azazel, your gift along with all these wonderful children from Earth has summoned your guardian on this new journey. (He snorts smoke.) He is here.
(Alturo the guardian dragon appears, music swells and lights move unto Alturo above Azazel)
Alturo: Hello, children. Let me thank you all on behalf of dragonkind for what you have helped do today. And you also Arriel. Never has dragonkind had such a good friend.
Azrael: His soul is truly dragon and I suspect children of Earth, so are yours. Arriel it is time to fly. There is much to do.
Arriel (bows): By your command.
Azrael: One last thing children of Earth. When you return to your world, please honour us dragons by doing something for us. Never stop painting, never stop singing or dancing, write stories and laugh, be good to each other and most importantly look to the stars. Look for the brightest star twinkling in the heavens. That will be us sending you all the love of Azrael. Farewell, farewell. ( Half way through this speech, Azrael could be slowly retreating back down the hole, smoke building as he goes and the end of the speech if possible could be like an echo around the chamber.) Farewell my new friends!
Anius and Arlon: That’s it. We’re out of here. We definitely have a story to tell now. Farewell Earth babies. (They duck out of sight.)
Azazel: And thank you for being here and helping me and as Azrael said be safe and keep imaginations alive. Bye, bye. Bye, bye.
(Arriel takes centre stage and raises his arms. He is buzzing with excitement and has a huge smile on his face.)
Arriel: Azazel has a journey to make now and so must we. Thank you for coming with me to Azrael, the dragon world that once was lost and has now been found. Where the seas will sing and dragons will paint pictures in the skies with clouds and rainbows. Snow storms shall become operas and thunder will be the laughter of the dragon elders. Stories will now fill the planet like rain and the stars will shine more brightly. (He pauses dramatically and takes a step closer, leaning forward.) And that’s because the real stars here today – were all of you. Give yourselves a round of applause. (Kids applaud themselves.) Now, remember how we got here. Think good and happy thoughts and; think of your homes, your gardens, the place you are the most happy. Think of the stories you will now tell your friends of how you helped save the dragon world and will keep imagination alive forever! Farewell children of Earth. Azrael will be forever in your debt.
(The stage should start darkening as he speaks, lights focusing on him before swirling and twirling as the journey back to Earth begins again.).