The eldest and I went to Chichester Festival Theatre last week to see Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo. I have never taken him to the theatre before and we were both really looking forward to it. J loves dinosaurs and was learning all about them at school before half-term, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
The theatre is in central Chichester, there’s a huge car park outside which made for an easy trip either end of the production. We had a drink in one of the cafe sections in the foyer, then went in to find our seats.
Dinosaur Zoo is presented as a live animal display with a zoo keeper (the excellent Sophie McBean) leading the narrative throughout. Erth is an Australian company whose credits include Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony and Sydney Children’s Festival. The show has been running in the West End and is touring the UK between now and the end of June. Sophie (zoo keeper) was brilliant and engaged the audience right from the start, she warned us that along with the laughter (she told some really good jokes for adults as well as for kids) there would be tears and oh boy was she right.
The puppeteer’s did their jobs so well that you kind of forgot that they were there (no offence guys) and they moved the little dinosaurs around the stage, eating, playing and fighting. Zoo keeper was telling us some really interesting facts about each dinosaur and invited people up on stage at various points to interact with them, which provided much amusement (particularly when she pulled out mums and dads who looked rather uncomfortable on stage, even though they were played along well)! J kept hoisting his hand in the air, each time there was a chance to go up on stage and I was over the moon for him when he was chosen to go up and meet the T-Rex.
When you see the size of the T-Rex, you will understand that the once confident 5 year old was rather nervous when he actually go onto the stage, not forgetting the fact that he had several hundred peoples eyes on him. J had to open his arms for to try to scare the T-Rex, you will see from the next photo that the zoo keeper had to rescue J from the mouth of the dinosaur coming towards him.
The background music was intense and loud and Sophie was setting the scene for how things may have been, coming face to face with a T-Rex. As an adult in the audience I found it amusing to watch and it made me laugh but when I looked around at the childrens’ faces I could see the power of theatre, they were on the edge of their seats. J had to try to feed the T-Rex and it all got too much, his bottom lip went, tears were rolling down his cheeks and Sophie quickly and smoothly returned him to his seats (ensuring that there was no embarrassment for J), whilst grabbing a slightly older child to go up and finish the job (who looked equally terrified).
The show ended with a plant eating dinosaur (phew) and everyone left very happy, racing down to meet some of the baby dinosaurs in the foyer post show. This was a really nice touch as it meant all the children could have their photos taken, meet the dinosaurs and feel part of the experience.
We stopped off at Pizza Express in Arundel to grab a pizza on the way home, two little girls came in with their mum, spotted J and were beside themselves that it was the same boy who had been on stage with a T-Rex, they were in awe. J suddenly brightened up (I think he was still in shock from the T-Rex experience), wanted to get to Boots to print out the photos of him on stage to show all of his friends how brave he had been. Our only regret from the day was that we hadn’t booked onto the pre show workshop (making dinosaur heads and doing a workshop). We loved this show, found Chichester Festival Theatre such a great venue (not too enormous and daunting at this age) and will be back soon (I have also just seen that they are doing Peter Pan at Christmas, we are booking this now)!
To book Dinosaur Zoo live on tour visit their website.
To find out whats on at Chichester Festival Theatre (who also run lots of workshops for kids) or to book Peter Pan for Christmas visit their website.