Review: Erth's Dinosaur Zoo at Underbelly
2★★

In the McEwan Hall in Bristo Square, hundred of young children gaze excitedly at a succession of beautifully-made dinosaur puppets – from baby dinosaurs to a huge, snapping T-Rex. The puppets are lifelike and entertaining, and the children in the audience are keen to see them closer and experience them interacting with one another. The ‘palaeontologist’ who introduces the dinosaurs and guides the show tells the young audience important facts and histories—unfortunately, however, a lot of this seems to be lost on many of the children, most of whom are very young. 

While some of the children in the audience are chosen to come up on stage and take part in activities this creates a tense atmosphere when most of the children miss out on this opportunity—the boy sitting behind my own son burst into tears every single time he was not chosen! And he was not alone in that response… 

In the context of the Fringe, where there is so much brilliant story-telling and real drama on offer, Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo veers too much towards the educational, overall, with no real narrative. Furthermore, the performance seems to rely too heavily on the (divisive, in this case!) audience participation; when a young child turns out not to be very good at taking direction or telling a joke in front of hundreds of people, it means that the show as a whole suffers. Of course it is down to luck as to whether the audience ‘performs’ well; in our show they were on the whole not particularly entertaining (which is fair enough, as they are all so young), and so a significant portion of the performance as a whole was therefore disappointing and inevitably ‘amateur’. When ticket prices are quite expensive, it would probably make more sense to focus on the puppets and actors – and an engaging story suitable for young children – rather than a show that relies on hit-and-miss audience participation. 

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