I never expected not to ‘get’ a children’s show. Adult shows may be esoteric, bizarre or pretentious but at least with children you know you where you are; somewhere between a fart joke and a sing-along usually. It was therefore with some surprise and confusion that I watched Charlie Chuck’s Chuckasaurus Show, trying to work out why the seat-wetting laughter was coming from so many solo adult audience members.
Let me explain: the concept of the show is that Charlie Chuck has travelled back in time with his two trusty companions to prehistoric times, only to encounter the dinosaurs that roam the earth. So far, a kid’s show. Yet the actual execution of this premise is baffling. On entering the show we were given some old school 3D glasses that we are never asked to use; Charlie Chuck came humphing on and attempted to steal sweets, something which a badly masked woman berates him for. One of the most structured and obvious gags in the show is a repetitive piece about pies which is similar to the Dead Parrot Sketch in Monty Python. Only it isn’t as funny.
Apart from that, Charlie and his friends bash drums, make food for dinosaurs out of balled up bread, sing and dance badly to pre-recorded tracks and pelt the audience with plastic balls. This last most decidedly went down best with the children, although it seems to have no real function in terms of the story. Is there even meant to be a story? Who can tell; the shambolic, rather improvised feel of the show could be the result of not having finished writing the show or the product of endless rehearsals. Certainly one of the more amusing moments was when a technical malfunction delays the chuckasaurus and David Kear (Chuck’s real life alter ego) improvised by eating a teacake and accidently swore, to the great amusement of many of the children in the audience.
The children were initially captured by the straight out bizarreness of the play but for some the lack of plot or coherence meant their attention was lost. It appeared a lot more popular with parents who enjoyed the bizarre comedy. ‘It makes more sense if you’ve seen his stand-up’, the friendly woman from The Scotsman explained. Yet this is an odd requirement for any show, let alone one for children. Any performance should be able to stand on its own, without needing foreknowledge or previous experience of the actor in order to enjoy it. Children will certainly be intrigued by the initial wackiness but, without a coherent plot to ground it, the absurdist humour may just leave them baffled.