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What To Do When You Find A Dinosaur

Everybody likes digging, right? Maybe you use a spade, or just your hands. Sand or earth fly everywhere until you discover something. Maybe, just maybe, it's …a dinosaur! Oxford Playhouse presents Oxford's very own pre-historic story in this bone-shaking, belly-aching show. Ages 4 to 8.
Burton Taylor Studio, Fri 12 September - Sun 21 September 2014

September 18, 2014

We were immediately transported into a nineteenth century laboratory as we walked into the BT studio. It's already an intimate space, and my children sat on cushions and peered up at the lizards and instruments hanging from the ceiling. At the back a huge bookcase was full of curious scientific objects. "A professor must work here!" said my six year old. Mr Frankly, 'a miner', complete with blackened face and head torch, came round to introduce himself to each child as they sat down.

This set the tone of the piece: a high level of audience participation integrated into the context of the story - we were actually there, in the laboratory with the husband and wife scientist team, helping to discover the very first dinosaur. My daughter, being a purist, was troubled by the fact that they "kept mentioning the play while they were doing the play". I, however, thought that it was expertly done. The other children were delighted to be asked "do you know what a fossil is" and "who's brave enough to open this drawer?"

In fact William and Mary Buckland (played by T J Holmes and Lucy Tuck) demonstrated their flexibility through the entire show, with seamless transitions between drama, farce, dance and song, light projections and palaeontology lectures, never missing a beat, or so it seemed to me. I was really captivated by the facial expressions of Mary - I may have been over analysing it, but she seemed to explore the trials and tribulations endured by Victorian wives, all the while making us laugh. It kept me entertained, while the children laughed at the less subtle jokes.

And there certainly was a lot of toilet humour. The play opens with loud 'bathroom' noises and groans, and goes on to dedicate a whole song to a table made out of poo. That was a big hit with my three year old.

Mary showed her talent at improvising when a little girl from the audience was invited to be 'brave' on stage. "I've broken my arm," she mentioned as Mary tried to put a glove on her. Mary took the statement in her stride: "There's not much that holds you back, is there?" she commented.

The slick performance culminated in the construction of a giant dinosaur skeleton that comes alive. Some of the children, including my three year old, did seem a little scared as the dinosaur threatened to gobble them up, but the day was soon saved by singing it to sleep.

A really excellent piece of theatre - imaginative, lively and well-executed.

"William farts a lot!" - Dougal, age 3

"I liked the way Mary spoke to William" - Morrigan, age 6

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