Harriet Dyer: The Dinosaur Show

An hour with Harriet Dyer is an hour of absurdism where literally anything can happen. The show is named The Dinosaur Show, and this theme is loosely threaded throughout the performance with tangents a-plenty. Dyer comes running into the venue in a giant inflatable dinosaur costume, promising us that “we’re about to see a 35 year old have a breakdown in a diplodocus outfit”. This didn’t happen. The show starts with a gaggle of anecdotes about her bipolar disorder, her gay dad and buying tiny straw hats for cats. I couldn’t help get swept away in the moment as Dyer personified ‘indoor pathetic fireworks’, a feat of physical theatre showcasing her natural talent.

An hour of absurdism where literally anything can happen

The premise of the show is Dyer’s exploration of why dinosaurs went extinct. By the end, I was no wiser – Dyer utilised a range of methods like puppetry, film and song to probe into the topic but they lacked any real coherency. I pondered on whether this was part of the act, and possibly it was – however the fact I was so conflicted about whether it was deliberate or not demonstrated that it didn’t work. A film of Dyer performing the macarena suddenly appeared on screen, as she inexplicably exited the stage for a few minutes – coming back with the explanation of “it’s a lot to take in, you needed a break.” There are two further stage exits as she retrieves puppets, each time the audience being babysat by yet another curious film clip. However the exits were a little too long.

Moments in the show are excellent, and others fall flat – mainly any of the parts to do with dinosaurs. Ironic as that’s what we’re there for. Dyer even notes herself toward the end of the performance that “people always go quiet at the dinosaur bits, which is strange because you’ve come to see a show about dinosaurs.” Dyer has at least demonstrated self awareness about which elements of her show don’t work, and going forward I’d recommend ditching the dinosaur theme and sticking to what she’s great at – absurdist humour. This would elevate the show substantially.

Dyer is naturally hysterical. Everything about her facial expressions, turn of phrase and random ad lib digressions works very well and is hugely funny. She’s unpredictable, maniacal and hilariously entertaining – her persona mimicking a six year old high on e-numbers, desperately trying to get their parents attention. It works, like the skit luring the rat out her nostril. The family anecdotes are another high point, and I’d have loved to have heard more of those. This is Dyer’s first year at a paid venue, and she deserves to be here. Focussing on her strengths is the way forward.

Reviews by Jodie McVicar

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Harriet (BBC Three, BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals, BBC Radio 4 Extra, BBC Radio – Knock Knock, BBC – Ouch!, Absolute Radio) loves dinosaurs. You probably do too, so come and dip your body in her very large catacomb of chaos. Whatever happens – dinosaurs and ditties are a guarantee. 'Harriet Dyer was one of the stand-out superstars for me of this years Edinburgh Fringe. She's insightful, unique, peerless, extraordinary and... well, maybe a little unhinged' (4 Extra Stands Up, BBC Radio 4 Extra).

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