The past really is a blast

Australovenator

Dinosaurs can go to your head when Australovenator is about

Dinosaur Zoo

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

ERTH’S Dinosaur Zoo has arrived at Birmingham Hippodrome on an extensive UK Tour and, first off, if you’re not a dinosaur fan - or rather if you don’t have a small dinosaur fan in your family - then this probably isn’t the show for you.

If however, like me, you really rather like dinosaurs and have a child who utterly LOVES dinosaurs, then you may well be on to a winner.

Concentrating on the dinosaurs of the southern hemisphere, this antipodean sojourn into the land of the dinosaurs is both informative as well as entertaining.

The puppets on show are both excellently constructed and excellently presented, with an attempt made to show a real animal instinct/behaviour and dinosaur feel to the interaction on Maganeurasstage - complete with a zoo keeper.

Enormous Meganeuras (pictured left -think massive Dragonflies with 94cm wingspans) are taken through the audience, landing on audience member’s outstretched fists.

 A better start than asking the children for Dinosaur jokes - the one picked went down like a lead balloon.

For future audience members requiring a stock joke:

Why do you never hear a Pterodactyl go to the bathroom?

Because the P is silent.

You’re welcome.

Baby Dryosaurs then hiked up the cute factor considerably and would not have looked out of place in the ill-fated early 90s Dinosaurs sitcom. (It may be only me that thinks that - in fact it may have been only me that watched Dinosaurs).

A pair of Leaellynasaura provided the best interaction between pairs of dinosaurs and whilst no effort was made to hide the puppeteers, the Leaellynasaura truly did capture the attention of the audience.

Throughout, pre-picked children from the audience are on stage interacting with the dinosaurs. This is an admirable aspect to the show; a big risk as it gives a lot of importance to which children are picked and how entertaining/pragmatic they are on stage with what they’re being asked to do. Generally it works but sometimes you can’t help but feel the tangible disappointment of the children not on stage and some segments do rather bog down the show.

The zoo keeper compere, to give him his due, works hard to try and keep children and adults amused and the tempo high but, on occasion, it’s asking a lot, even for him.

As well as the dinosaurs themselvesDryosaurs there is lots of dino information, which the children themselves lap up and are sure to regurgitate verbatim to anyone within earshot over the coming months.

Increasing in size as the 50 minute show progresses the Australovenator - the closest we get to a T-Rex, is an incredibly impressive puppet (and indeed puppeteer) and manages to scare both the children on stage and some of them off it.  b

Upping the ahhh factor with a baby Dryosaurs

Finally, the serene Titanosaur (or rather its massive head and neck) provide a calming end to the show.

These two dinosaurs are the closest we get to the Jurassic Park style ‘wow’ moments, a case of close but not cigar for those but the most ardent dinosaur fans.

Afterwards, the audience has a chance to meet the Dryosaurs and  Leaellynasauras -  a really super end to the show which gives the adults a chance to see a top quality puppet (though many did stroke the dinosaurs too) and the children the chance to meet the dinosaurs, with the excellent puppeteers/zoo keepers, doing an superb job of keeping the magic alive for them whilst also instilling the need for respect of the dinosaurs when stroking them. Renée was especially good with the children.

Overall, I think Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is trying to do something genuinely exciting, educational and innovative. In a world where children are introduced to countless Dinosaur experiences they have tried to do something different from the norm.

Yes, it would have been easier to just do the same old Dinosaurs (to be truthful a lot of children were shouting for a T-Rex, so it might be worth warning them in advance there’s no T-Rex, to soften the blow) but Erth have tried to introduce lesser known dinosaurs into the mix and for that they should be applauded. Equally the inclusion of children on stage is a bold move but one that really is pot luck whether it works or not.

If you love dinosaurs, or have a little one who does, then you’ll enjoy the show, if you don’t then you may find that there is not quite enough wow factor to convert you (only 3 stars for non-believers) but at £12 - £15 and 50 minutes in length it’s probably worth a punt and the ‘meet and great’ afterwards is a great addition. To 15-03-15

Theo Clarke

13-03-15 

Dinosaur Zoo runs at Birmingham Hippodrome  to Sunday 15 March 2015.  Tickets  £12.50 - £15.   Perf times: Fri 2pm & 4pm; Sat 11am; Sun 11am & 2pm.   Call 0844 338 5000 or book online at birminghamhippodrome.com http://www.erth.com.au

The Australovenator, meaning Southern Hunter, was found in central Queensland in 2009 and was like a small T-Rex, about 6ft 6in at the hip and 20 feet long It was affectionately nicknamed Banjo by its discoverers, after Banjo Paterson, the author of Waltzing Matilda.

Traces of collagen found in Tyrannosaurus fossils, incidentally, places among its modern day descendants chickens and ostriches. 

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