Blog: Steven Lee

The Don’t Dribble on the Dragon playwright reveals that the inspirations for his family-friendly, magic-filled play were his son – and Paul Daniels

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Secret dragons and dribbling heroes might sound like just another fairy story but Don’t Dribble on the Dragon author Steven Lee speaks to Big Issue North ahead of his performance at Warrington’s Parr Hall to reveal the very real inspiration behind the work, as well as his friendship with one of the best-loved magicians of our time.

I would like to introduce you to my son Jack, my inspiration, who is sitting with me at the moment.

The story of Don’t Dribble on the Dragon begins when Jack was just a little baby. His aunt, my sister Gemma, bought him a toy dragon and, when his teeth started to come through, he would just dribble all over it and we would all laugh and say: “Don’t dribble on the Dragon, Jack!”

Around three years ago I was sitting backstage thinking about this and sometimes a story just comes to you, whole and complete, like a gift from the heavens. This was the case with Don’t Dribble on the Dragon.

I had the story, a children’s story in verse, and I spoke to the artist who designs my posters to see if she wanted to illustrate it. She quickly transformed it into a wonderful picture book.

As I’m really a playwright at heart it was quite natural for me to turn it into musical. I wanted it to be a shared experience – something that the whole family could enjoy together.

During our performances, we always expect a little bit of chatter – no one wants a silent auditorium. All the kids shout out and join in with their grown-ups, they all clap and sing along, and that’s what makes it such a good family event.

It’s also really lovely to see how people with disabilities react. There was this one lady who came to our show with severe learning difficulties. Her carer explained that she never interacted with anything but when the bubbles came down at the end, she put out her hands to catch them, and you could see there were tears in her eyes – it was just so magical for her.

That’s the kind of thing we’re really proud of. Our stories capture people’s imagination – it just seems to grab them. For us, it’s all about creating magical memories that people can share for years to come.

However, the real magic in the show comes from the wonderful talents of Paul Daniels. I first met Paul when he was rehearsing for a pantomime and we were doing a show called Old MacDonald. He was a lovely, curious man, and he saw that there was a show going on and, because he was curious, he came to watch.

After the show, he asked if I had ever thought about including magic in any of my shows and gave me his card. I had already started work on Don’t Dribble on the Dragon and I thought magic and dragons were perfect partners, so sent him a copy of my book. I didn’t hear from him for a very long time but one day I came home to find a message from Paul on my voicemail, asking me to call him.

It was such a fun and exciting time. I loved Paul Daniels and I was absolutely broken when he died

I did, and he explained that he was a family man himself and that the story really chimed with him and that he would love to be involved. I then spent the next 18 months in his kitchen going through the book page by page, asking “Can we do this? Can we do that?” He said yes to pretty much everything.

It was such a fun and exciting time. I loved him and I was absolutely broken when he died. It was a very, very sad time, but I think it’s really lovely and special that we have his last ever magical design – a real piece of history. I remember speaking to him before he died, and I said I would make sure the show would go to as many places as possible so people could experience his talents one last time. If you love Paul Daniels, you may have been left wanting a little bit more – and that’s what he gave us: one last bit of magic!

Don’t Dribble on the Dragon is a show that’s full to the brim of magic and music, but the thing that’s most important to us is that we engage with families across the UK. Some people don’t go to the theatre because they don’t think it’s for them, but the truth is that the theatre is massively accessible: it’s for everyone because it’s all about telling stories – and who doesn’t love a great story?

I’ve been writing family theatre for 20 years now so I had an inkling that Don’t Dribble On The Dragon could be a bit special – and it has been, having achieved more five star reviews than any of our shows before it. It’s going to be a tough act to follow, which is why I’ve taken two years to write the next one: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, which will be touring from March and hopefully coming to a theatre near you soon!

Dates for all our shows – including Warrington Pyramid, 14 Feb, and Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, 18 Feb – songs, videos and fun stuff for the kids to do can be found on

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