I have a confession to make. A VCR viewing of Jurassic Park at too tender an age in the mid-90s left me somewhat scared of dinosaurs. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I joined a cheerful audience abandoning a sunny, pleasant evening in Brighton to be warmly greeted by the Park family instead. Once a happy family of four, and now a grieving family of three, we find them hosting a memorial screening of their family favourite, Jurassic Park, at their local community centre in Lyme Regis. There’s Noah (Simon Maeder), the youngest in the family and a happy-go-lucky optimist. His sister Jade (Maria Askew) is an intelligent but sulky teenager and Terry (Frode Gjerløw) is their befuddled father, struggling first with divorce and then with the unexpected full time custody of his children. The absence of mother, Maddy, is keenly felt.
This show is about so much more than dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum
All geared up to show us the film, the family are shocked to discover that their VHS copy of Jurassic Park is missing. They descend into yet another family argument and the evening seems in danger of coming to an abrupt end. Instead, Noah has the bright idea of re-enacting the film themselves. What follows is a combination of side-splitting dinosaur-based mimicry interspersed with carefully constructed scenes of family drama. One particularly unforgettable scene is the gruesome death of Dennis Nedry, which manages to be both delightfully frightening, as well as spot-on hilarious. Here, the company’s Jacques Lecoq background is skilfully employed. The whole production embodies a joyously childish physicality that means that a laugh is always around the corner. The surreal cut scenes where the three actors bob and weave about as inquisitive dinosaurs will raise a smile in even the sternest of critics. And who knew that a backpack could make such a convincing T-Rex?
There’s plenty for fans of the film to enjoy. Key characters are amusingly boiled down to signature moves and the most memorable moments from Spielberg’s blockbuster are lovingly and imaginatively recreated. However, this show is about so much more than dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more believable portrayal of a family in crisis and, although all performances are played with a certain impish glee, there are also scenes of true poignancy. The audience was often left rolling with laughter, but there were occasional tears of empathy, too. These potentially jarring transitions were deftly handled by the cast.
This is a warm-hearted production that will entertain and surprise you in equal measure. Ending on an upbeat note, you can’t help but agree - life finds a way.