DINOSAUR ZOO Phoenix, WC1, now touring


There is a good reason why frazzled British parents cherish Australian nannies: and every cheerful, firm, gung-ho, reliable quality we dream of is exemplified in Lindsey Chaplin.  Striding onstage through a forest of weird inflatable Aussie trees in her zookeeper kit,  with a bright “G’day!” she demands that the audience of restless small children and parents greet her back. “I like to start happy because by the end of this show some of you will be crying. True”.

She has been hosting this tremdendous puppet hour since 2011 and boy, does this sheila know how to handle us.  Everything’s a joke, but everything’s serious too:  not only the (considerable) battery of facts about wildlife 65 million years ago,  but the management of an unpredictable unfledged audience.  “Come on up  –  you –  yeah, nice to be part of the London slow-walking festival…Don’t come up unless you’re asked, OK? And parents, if you own a rogue child…”

There were several rogue children among the ones she did summon up to stroke baby Dryosaursi on puppeteers laps,  hypnotize a Leaellynasaurus,  assist in gruesome dentistry and throw disgusting looking bundles of guts to an apparently escaped – and monstrously enormous – Titanosaur with wobbling wattles and gigantic razor teeth.  Every child was fielded with amiable brilliance, whether rogue or helpful: some of them only three years old.  One  tiny girl flatly refused to put her head in the Titanosaurs vast mouth and insisted her brother come up instead.  No problem.    Not that the rest of us were left out of the action:  at one point giganic primitive dragonfly Meganeuras erupted suddenly around the audience, flapping on  long wobbly poles, and we leapt and shrieked in delighted alarm.

I had not quite known what to expect of Erth’s show,  except that the famous company’s puppeteering would be classy, subtle in movement and painstaking in accuracy,   and that its creatures – deduced from fossil science  – are proudly Australian and therefore even bigger and fiercer than the familar Jurassic-Park lot.      But it wears its educational credits with pleasant lightness,  eschews Disneyish sentimentality,  and is paced cunningly from the first cuddly lap-dinos to the fiercer ones and the immense and unexpected Bronto-neck which concludes the show.   The Titanosaur is fabulous.  If you stay on, you can go on stage to meet ‘n greet it.

I caught the show at the end of its London mornings at the Phoenix, where it delightfully shared the Irish-bar stage set built for shows of ONCE in the evening (hell, theses are Aussie dinosaurs, they’re comfortable a pub).  But the reason to alert you now is that it is off on the road again, from Southend to Scunthorpe and beyond.
And any dino-lover over three should not miss it.

Cue a celebratory touring-mouse – Touring Mouse wide

Rating   Four  4 Meece Rating
Touring UK:   29 Jan – 24 April  Details:   http://www.dinosaurzoolive.com


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