Saturday, 15 December 2018

Dinos come roaring back to life on stage

FROM swooping giant dragonflies which flew over our heads and dinosaur babes-in-arms, through llama-sized dinos strutting

FROM swooping giant dragonflies which flew over our heads and dinosaur babes-in-arms, through llama-sized dinos strutting their stuff, building up to a Tyrannosaurus Rex — and more — this show had me and my two sons, aged seven and three, on the edge of our seats.

The premise of “live” dinosaurs with their zookeepers allowed the audience to get up close and personal with the zoo’s menagerie (there was a danger zone in the first few rows, adding to the atmosphere).

Children were invited up on stage near the creatures and we were taught to let them sniff the backs of our hands, creating a sense of authenticity. It turned out to be educational and informative, with plenty of jokes for the grown-ups.

The presenter, Shaun, together with his assistants, kept up a jovial but informative banter, relaying facts and fun. Their dedication to this production was clear as it felt like they had a passion for their subjects and were delivering fresh information.

I had wondered how it would compare with blockbusters such as Jurassic Park and was pleased to find that the beauty of the puppeteering and special effects was juxtaposed nicely with a down-to-earth zoological approach.

Shaun told us “that’s all the special effects budget used up” during an early explosion to demonstrate an asteroid impact, while explaining that this event in all likelihood wiped out nearly all the dinosaurs within the space of one hour, 66 million years ago.

Shaun segued smoothly back into introducing the creatures and the show then struck a good balance in maintaining the children’s interest while not being too frightening.

My children thought the baby dinosaurs were very cute and were likewise impressed by the giants towards the end. If my seven-year-old was entranced, my three-year-old was positively bouncing off the ceiling.

The puppetry itself was bewitching, using simple methods to create powerful illusions. The team also had their fingers on the pulse of paleontology, introducing us to the Nanuqsaurus from Alaska, only discovered last year, while the Tyrannosaurus Rex even had some feathers.

At the end of the show the kids even got to hang out a little with the dinosaurs and get some photos in, while the zookeepers managed their charges.

Our verdict: roarsome.

Review: Natalie Aldred

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