What do you call a wet dinosaur? A driplodocus.
Childrend's Show review: Erth's Dinosaur Zoo, Underbelly - Bristo Square, Until 26 August * * * * *
Theatre review: Danny MacAskill's Drop and Roll Live, Underbelly's Circus Hub on the Meadows, Until 24 August * * * *
Alright, that’s one joke given away, but it came from a small boy in the audience of Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo, smug and slightly precocious as small boys can be. No spoiler alert necessary on this review, as it’s safe to say the target audience will regard newspapers as something that went out with the dinosaurs.
“Hands up who would like to meet a baby dinosaur that eats vomit?” says host Scott Wright, referring to the infant parasavolophus in the arms of one of his puppeteers, which fed on the regurgitated food of its parents. There’s a baby triceratops on stage too, in the show that manages to make dinosaurs cute.
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The magnificently bearded Wright is the artistic director of Erth. His Sydney-based company has been making dinosaurs for about 20 years, and developed this show about ten years ago; other versions are currently touring in the US and Australia.
“We were the first, we were the original, everything else came after,” he said, as children clustered round after the show. These days you can buy your own giant dinosaur puppets from China.
Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo, aimed at children over three, is expertly presented by Wright, a survey of Australian dinosaurs in true Aussie style. A happy buzz of oohs and aahs descends on McEwan Hall, as giant prehistoric dragonflies buzz around the audience, and a boy puts his head in a Tyrannosaurus’ mouth.
The puppets are a sort of dinosaur’s answer to Warhorse, but without the war, lurching and lifelike, and you have to let them sniff the back of your hand first. They run from small to very, very large, with a little girl unforgettably starry-eyed as a vast titanosaur bends its head to be patted. Never fear: dinosaurs ate flowers, like unicorns.
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The prehistoric forest looks like giant purple asparagus with fringes. Recent research tells us Tyrannosaurus Rex was red with a black crest of feathers, which makes this one look a bit like Noddy Holder. He still roars, which purists say is questionable, being basically a giant carnivorous chicken, but the nice thing about dinosaurs is that nobody quite knows. Wright promises to include a Scottish dinosaur – a Stegosaurus, say – on the next outing.
Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is gentle and funny with space to think amid the perfect Saturday morning soundtrack of soft exotic bird noises. Not much of the above is true for Danny MacAskill’s Drop and Roll Live, for children who have ditched stuffed Brontosauri for bike shirts and hero-worship. The show has a 5+ rating and could use a -40 warning for blasting hard rock music. It’s a funny sort of sporting fame MacAskill has: measured not in medals but in YouTube hits, starting with the video he made riding Edinburgh railings a decade ago and amplified with his fantastic Cuillins ride The Ridge – 65 million views, making him an international treasure for guts and skill. His cycling circus stunt show was selling out on a Friday afternoon, with an audience anchored by awestruck young fans, children who clamoured for thrown goodies.
MacAskill injured his knee early in the show run, and walks across the ring with a pronounced limp.
But when he’s lured back on to his bike, with overdone fanfare by ringmaster Henry Jackson, an extreme sports commentator, his body still shows a particular fluidity, a slow measured grace: the Roger Federer of trials cyclists. He vaults sideways from platform to platform, reprises a bit of his Edinburgh ride, somersaults over an exercise ball (the trick that apparently put his knee out) and still pulls off an impressive flying forward roll.
There’s a weighty list of co-stars. BMX rider Kriss Kyle has you rising with him in your seat as he flies up impossibly.
Duncan Shaw and Ali Clarkson, veteran names of the biking circuit, do big air, and real danger, and a scarily flawless performance that includes leaps from an 11-foot platform: fierce creatures careering around the stage, noisy and scary to watch, faced at any moment with extinction.