Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular
Odyssey Arena, Belfast
Friday Sept 14th 2012
One thing most people are familiar with now is animatronic dinosaurs. We’ve nearly all seen them, certainly anyone with an interest in dinosaurs has anyway. Heck, I even saw a dinosaur exhibition in an amusement arcade once.
So it was with caution that I went to Walking With Dinosaurs, I’d watched the trailers and read a couple of reviews all of which were amazed by it, but I don’t get convinced so easily. I took my son, a genuine dinosaur enthusiast, so I could gauge his reaction too.
When the show opens, we meet the narrator, Huxley the palaeontologist, played in this performance by Liverpool actor Dominic Rickhards, who explains how important it is to study dinosaurs and shows us a fossilised skull. He then teases us into imaging a world, millions of years ago, where it would be possible to walk with dinosaurs… cue time-tunnel-esque effects on the massive screen (framed by massive teeth) at the back of the stage, that takes us back 245 million years to the Triassic period.
The set is a rocky protrusion in the middle of the stage and on it is a cluster of eggs. The narrator explains how dinosaur life began with these eggs. And suddenly two crack and we meet our first dinos – two baby plateosaurus and they are pretty impressive.
No sooner are they hatched than we meet our first full-sized thunder lizard, the liliensternus, a predator on the hunt for food, he looks similar to a velociraptor but has two fins on his head and he’s hungry. To say any more would ruin the experience but I was hooked.
During the show we travel from the Triassic to the Jurassic to the cretaceous, charting the birth of the dinosaurs right to their extinction. And it’s quite a ride.
The whole reason people will go to this show is for the creatures – and yes, there are familiar creatures too – brachiosaurus (pictured at top of page), stegosaurus, velociraptor and T-rex (above) all make appearances – and you will not be let down. They are truly breath-taking.
They walk around the stage, interact with each other – including a few fights and even signs of affection – and terrify the ever-present narrator. They come over to the edge of the stage and lean into the audience so we can get a better look at just how massive and life-like these creations by The Creature Technology Company are. And they certainly don’t disappoint. It won’t take you too long to work out how they ‘walk’ but your mind will be blown none-the-less.
However, while the creatures are astonishing, the set is a thing of beauty too. The rock in the centre of the stage is as important as the creatures; when the earth cracks and creates the continents, the rock cracks too, it becomes a haven for plant life, it erupts into life, it’s volcanoes and mountains, it’s completely alive and should be watched at all times – you never quite know what will pop out.
One of the best things in the show is the plant life (above); as time moves on, different types of vegetation and plant life – massive structures – erupt around the stage. It’s breath-taking and fun and, most importantly, educational as we learn how plants developed colour over time and what happens as poisonous gas clouds from volcanoes cover the earth, as rain falls on ash, how new life is born…
This is an important part of Walking With dinosaurs. It’s exciting, breath-taking, funny, scary and also very educational.
Overall it’s a real accomplishment. We will never walk alongside real dinosaurs, but after you see this it’s a little easier to imagine just what it would feel like.
It’s a highly recommended show. Oh and when I asked my son what he thought he simply said ‘Awesome!’. ‘Nuff said.
Walking with Dinosaurs finishes in Belfast today (Sunday September 16th, 2012) and moves on to Dublin this Wednesday. The UK and European tour continues until May 2013.
For full information go to: www.dinosaurlive.com