NESSIE will have some serious competition at Eden Court next week.
For once she will not be the only prehistoric attraction in the area as dinosaurs stalk the stage at Eden Court.
Fortunately the star attractions at Dinosaur Zoo, created by Australian physical theatre company Erth, are nowhere near as dangerous as their counterparts in the Jurassic Park films, as Erth director Scott Wright assures us.
How would you describe Dinosaur Zoo?
It could be described as a live animal presentation, much like you might see at a zoo or a wildlife park — but we have dinosaurs. Great dinosaurs, from very small babies to some of the largest ever found. We teach the audience aspects of animal husbandry and we invite some members of the audience onto the stage to assist us with feeding and caring for our dinosaurs.
This is the show that Steve Irwin would have done if dinosaurs were alive today.
Who is the show aimed at?
Dinosaur Zoo appeals to anybody between the ages of 3 and 300.
The show is naturally geared towards kids. Children worldwide love dinosaurs but one of the surprising things about the show is that adults get a real kick out of it too. The show does have some great educational overtones but at the end of the day it is very funny and has a lovely endearing nature to it.
What is the aim of the show?
The aim is to have fun and to be honest. Dinosaurs are awesome but they can also be big and scary, every kid knows that. We like delivering the facts and since working with museums the importance of honesty has allowed us to tackle some pretty sticky questions like "is it real?".
Once upon a time we would try and explain our way out of such a question with awkward charm, but these days we are straight up.
"Yes, it’s a real puppet" is the easiest answer. Thanks to the magic of theatre and people’s desire to suspend their disbelief, more often that not, just two minutes after you announce that all the dinosaurs are puppets, people forget and continue on the journey.
The show is described as interactive — how do audience members get involved?
Throughout the show we will bring people onto the stage, this is actually my favourite part because it is unrehearsed. People’s reactions are very real and unpredictable so it makes for some wonderful moments.
In the past we used to try and invite all the children in the audience to come onto the stage with us, but as the show has grown in popularity and audience numbers have got much bigger, we now bring some of the dinosaurs out at the end of the show for a meet and greet so that folks have a chance to pat the creatures or take a photo.
How did you come up with the idea of the show?
I’m just a theatre director who knows a lot about dinosaurs, even though a lot of people think I’m a palaeontologist!
We had been custom making life-like dinosaur puppets for museums around the world and as a result had developed some pretty cool ways of presenting them within a museum context. We started to realise that we were onto something quite unique so we started doing small outdoor street shows at festivals around Australia and from there the idea snow-balled into the show that it is today. We like to keep the show fresh by building new dinosaurs all the time and introducing them regularly so that we keep up to date with recent discoveries.
Why do you think Dinosaur Zoo has proved so popular?
It’s unique, there is nothing like it in the world and because it’s Australian it has a fun, edgy charm to it. Most people’s experience of dinosaurs is based on inanimate objects in museums or as animated creatures in film or television, so by bringing our dinosaurs onto the stage we come one step closer, realising everybody’s dream of having these awesome creatures alive and well in our modern world.
• Dinosaur Zoo is at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court at 1.30pm and 4.30pm on Monday 30th September and 10.30am on Tuesday 1st October. The show is suitable for age three and over.