[2014048] Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo

[2014048] Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo

Erth @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – Little Big Top

10:00am, Sun 23 Feb 2014

After being impressed by both the splendid puppetry and dark themes on show in Murder (part of last year’s Festival), I was dead curious to see how Erth would present a dinosaur puppet show for children.

The human cast of Erth roam the stage in stereotypical zoo keeper khakis, with one male typically doing all the talking. And there was a surprising amount of talking upfront before the first dinosaur appearance, a small koala-sized thing swaddled in the arms of its puppeteer keeper. Fantastic movement in the eyes made it a convincing start.

From there, the dinosaurs only got bigger, with the puppetry control mechanisms becoming more and more impressive. Large horse-sized beasts roamed the stage – great movement was only let down by obvious handlers, but the audience didn’t seem to mind. A massive diplodocus-ish head and neck stretched into the Little Big Top from outside, both awe-inspiring and endearing; a large, threatening, mouth-full-of-teeth predator was “tamed” by one audience member for a head-in-mouth stunt. The only puppets that failed to win over the audience were the large mosquito-esque monsters, unconvincingly held aloft by the zoo keepers as they furiously operated the mechanism to keep their wings buzzing.

Volunteers to pat the puppets were plentiful, and always wonderful to watch; the youngest would oscillate from delighted to terrified and back again in a heartbeat, and even the older children – so brave and cocksure when approaching the stage, would quake a little from the dinosaurs (and maybe a little stage fright… hey, they were in front of around a hundred people!). But the highlight was undoubtedly the young brother/sister pair: the manner in which the older boy both encouraged, and moved to reassure, his slightly less confident sister was just adorable.

Was Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo great theatre? Well, no – but it was a great spectacle for children, and it made me realise just how much magic can still be found by young minds in a live space (even when one might suppose senses may have been dulled by computer-generated everything). And, some clever puppets notwithstanding, this proved enjoyable for me for the real stars of the show: the kids, pure of mind and heart, and willing to trust their eyes in a world of wonder.

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