Brighton Fringe 2018
Polished to perfection, this is a poignant, funny and nostalgic look at both 90’s family life and a classic Spielberg film. A must-see for fans of Jurassic Park, storytelling, or physical theatre.
Before I begin this review, I must make a confession. I wasn’t a particularly big fan of the Jurassic Park movie, and as such, although I have seen it, my recollection of some of the set pieces presented in this performances is minimal. For this reason I must apologise for the vague descriptions of the action in parts of this review.
The Jurassic Parks tells the tale of an everyday family struggling to come to terms with the loss of mother and wife Madelaine. Set in a community centre in Lyme Regis on the first anniversary of her death, the remaining members of the Park family – son Noah, daughter Jade, and father Terry – are preparing to hold a public showing of their family’s favourite film. Upon discovering that the VHS tape has gone missing, Noah leads the family in telling the story through the use of physical theatre, puppetry, song and dance.
The show was both created and performed by Maria Askew (Jade), Frode Gjerløw (Terry), and Simon Maeder (Noah). Performances were faultless throughout – unsurprisingly given the show has been running since 2015. Each of the characters played an equal part in telling the story of the film, while each also had their own story to tell. There was a highly refined feel to the show generated in part by the confidence and impeccable timing of the cast, and in part by the slick and seamless lighting changes between scenes. Using a variety of lighting states – from full wash when the characters were talking to the audience, to a very tight green when dinosaurs roamed – the story was energetically pushed from scene to scene. Changes were sharp and the performance flowed without interruption.
The set featured a large red carpet with striking green pot plants around the edges. Props were placed behind the plants and the performers never left sight, waiting behind the plants when not on stage. This set-up provided the right environment for performers to quickly and easily retrieve and use props, puppets and even the plants themselves, without detracting from the action. Two scenes in particular stood out for their brilliance in using minimal props as puppets: The first is the scene where we first “see” the dinosaurs, and Jade’s backpack transforms to become the dinosaur’s mouth. Combined with the cinematic soundtrack, the tension in the room was palpable, while at the same time leaving the audience grinning. The second was when one of the characters gets eaten by the dinosaur. Again, the recreation of the cinematic values using only the small selection of hand props and sound and lighting was delightful. The audience applauded in appreciation as the scene ended, and even I, with minimal recollection of the original scene, was left in no doubt as to what had happened.
Loaded with 90’s music and pop culture references (Britney, Spice Girls, Mortal Kombat to name a few), Jade even at one point performed her own version of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, with Noah joining on backing vocals and Terry adding some embarrassing dad-beats and dance moves. But there were also highly emotional moments. The links between scenes from Jurassic Park and scenes from Madelaine’s death bed were incredibly touching, and a device used to move from a song about a dinosaur to a song about her passing was particularly poignant.
As someone who’s memory of Jurassic Park is somewhat distant, I did occasionally feel like I’d missed out on a joke or two, but the story being told here stood on its own two feet, so I didn’t feel like I’d missed anything significant. Every time I looked across the audience I saw nothing but smiles and laughter from people of all generations. Even the poignant moments had a positivity about them and it was clear that the audience was able to hold on to the lightness of the story, even in the darker moments.
This is a triumphant piece of nostalgia-inducing theatre and the quality of the show is testament to everyone involved. It’s clear that every element of the show has been carefully considered – from the lighting to the sound, from the dialogue to the choreography. If you’re a fan of Jurassic Park, storytelling or physical theatre, this really is a must-see.