It’s a year on since Madeline died, so her children Jade (Maria Askew) and Noah (Simon Maeder) and their dad Terry (Frode GjerlØw) hold a memorial showing a family favourite, Jurassic Park. However, after realising that the original VHS tape is not in its box, Noah decides to recreate the film himself to stop his dad and moody sister from arguing. The trio re-enact the film interspersed with flashbacks to their family life before tragedy hit.
The production is entertaining as the show within the show is completely improvised by the characters, and they don’t try to cover that up. Noah whispers stage directions in his sister’s ear, the family become all the props as well as all the characters and a rucksack makes a rather convincing t-rex. The different scenes are pieced together by some rather interesting dinosaur-style choreography too. If you aren’t a fan of audience participation, hide yourself in the middle of the audience. Not only are you guests at the memorial, but you might find your drink whisked away from you temporarily as an impromptu prop or find yourself playing a dinosaur.
Despite being spurred on by a tragic event, the show never really allows a sad moment to last too long. Terry’s speech to his late ex-wife receives a chortle from the audience, whereas Jade’s memorial rap is cheered on and is actually pretty good. Personally I found her purposefully bad choreography to Britney Spears’s ‘Stronger’ quite uncomfortable to watch, but a song sung to a dying dinosaur quickly makes up for that.
The three talented actors play a multitude of characters, which is brilliant but is probably more so if you are familiar with the characters in the film. Terry is a bumbling father who is in over his head with his two children – especially teenage Jade who is always getting into trouble. Noah, the youngest of the family, just tries to keep everyone happy. Despite being set up as these characters, each one has a moment of vulnerability that may not last long but holds the family and the storyline together.
I went along to Dinosaur Park after seeing and thoroughly enjoying Jurassic Lark last year. The biggest difference between the two shows is that Jurassic Lark doesn’t need the context of Jurassic Park for its hilarity, whereas Dinosaur Park does. So if you are planning on going, I recommend you familiarise yourself with the film first.
Dinosaur plays at the St. James Theatre until 23 January. For more information and tickets, see the St. James Theatre website. Photo: Geraint Lewis.