Dinosaur Zoo – review
Phoenix Theatre

Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 12:47 PM | Review by: Mike Scott-Harding |
DINOSAUR ZOO - credit Robert Day DINOSAUR ZOO - credit Robert Day

What is it about dinosaurs?

How did they get so big?

I remember, in my pre-teen years (mid-70's, if my memory serves), being fascinated by them, reading all I could about them, and telling everybody who would listen: 'When I grow up, I'm going to be a paleontologist!' Of course, I would wait patiently for the inevitable question: 'What's that, then?' At which point, I would proudly reply: 'It's the study of fossils and dinosaurs!' And to prove myself to any who doubted my resolve, I would even spell it out for them: 'P-A-L-E-O-N-T-O-L-O-G-I-S-T!'

Which brings us neatly to Phoenix Theatre, London, on Sunday, December 1, 2013, where I saw the show 'Dinosaur Zoo'.

'Dinosaur Zoo' is 50 minutes of interactive dino-dialogue, puppetry, and helpful tips... should you be confronted by the aforementioned (mainly Australian) extinct creatures.

The show, hosted by Scott Wright, the charming and engaging artistic director, and aided by three energetic and talented puppeteers, keeps its audience entertained with a mixture of fun, facts, and audience-participation.

Initially, I was a little under-whelmed by the set. As the show is performing in the same theatre as the musical 'Once' (a situation that Scott charmingly alludes to), the 'Irish-pub' set is augmented only by a few oversized, inflatable plants, and a few 'bails of hay'. I was hoping for a more 'authentic' prehistoric setting, but... hey-ho. Any doubts were dispelled when Scott took to the stage and, after inviting two of the aforementioned musical's young(er) performers onto the stage to recite a dino-joke of dubious quality, proceeded to delight the packed, child-heavy audience and, no doubt, their parents with easy charm, hard facts, and soft sell (no... not those pop dinosaurs).

DINOSAUR ZOO - credit Robert Day DINOSAUR ZOO - credit Robert Day

The show uses puppets of varying sizes; from the two hand-held baby Dryosauruses to the two turkey-sized Lleaellynasauruses, and from the'T-Rex'-like Australovenator to the (neck-only) 'Brontosaurus'-like Titanosaur. All of the puppets come complete with interesting facts, and demonstrations by willing child-volunteers. Actually, just to keep the adults interested (or maybe himself), Scott does invite an adult female onto the stage to help demonstrate a Meganeura... that's an oversized dragon-fly, to you and I! Shorter (and more informative) than a panto, I believe 'Dinosaur Zoo' would make a great family-outing for those parents with pre-teen children.

In truth, it has something for everybody. I certainly learnt a few things: I found out the best way to ingratiate myself to a new animal (with the back of the hand, not the palm), how to hypnotise a chicken (I'll leave that to the imagination), and why T-Rexes are so big in dino-folklore (clue... they're American).

Lastly, I must confess that seeing the looks of wonderment on the faces of so many young children took me back to a time when I was convinced that nobody 'got' dinosaurs like I did.

How did I get so big?

How did dinosaurs get so big?

Take your (inner) child to 'Dinosaur Zoo', and find out.

Info: Dinosaur Zoo is at the Phoenix Theatre until January 21, 2014. Book tickets

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