As one of the bigger children’s shows at the Fringe and certainly one of the more heavily advertised, I had rather high expectations of Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs. Unfortunately, while there is much to commend it, my overriding impression is that this is simply good panto without the innuendo.
This was a polished spectacle, but it never really engaged.
Based on the book by Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto and performed by theatre company, Les Petits (an offshoot of Les Enfants Terribles), the show’ tells the story of a boy and his friends Pearl and Tom who discover a dinosaur in their school stationery cupboard. But this isn’t just any dinosaur – no, it’s a pirate dinosaur. What do kids like? Dinosaurs! What else do they like? Pirates! The yoking together of pirates and dinosaurs is a wee bit try-hard, but nevermind. What’s more irritating is the use of the ‘he’s behind you!’ routine, which wears thin after its first appearance, but is nevertheless rolled out again.
That said, the production is slick and there’s a good mix of dialogue, music, songs, and puppetry to keep the youngsters entertained. I also liked how the cast of three men and one woman invaded the audience space on scooters, but other than this, there was really very little audience interaction. The teacher Miss Pie has a decent Scottish accent, and brings some much-needed humour to the afternoon. Captain Stubble – the marooned pirate-dino – could do with a more defined personality and I would have appreciated seeing more of the huge pirate T-Rex. Indeed, the T-Rex was only reeled out for the showdown between him and nemesis, Stubble. The set changes are smoothly managed, from classroom to pirate ship to Flinn’s bedroom, and the cast is likeable in an unthreatening children’s TV presenter way. Some of the songs were insipid and lyrically unimaginative and the introduction of various sea-creatures accompanied by their names – crab! shark! jellyfish! etc – was rather too obvious in its educational intent, although the puppets were fun to watch, illuminated against the darkened stage.
This was a polished spectacle, but it never really engaged; there were too many clichés and weak aspects for it to be anything other than good, smut-free panto. Dino-ppointing.