Saturday, March 12, 2016

PREHISTORIC AQUARIUM Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016

Prehistoric Aquarium 

Written by Scott Wright with Drew Fairley and Catherine McNamara. Directed by Scott Wright. Designed by Steven Howarth. Sound design by Phil Downing. Animation by Christian J Heinrich. Illustrations by Gabbie Paananen.  Erth Visual and Physical.Norwood Concert Hall. Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016. March 10 - 13 2016.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Erth's Prehistoric Aquarium. Photo: Nick Wishart

I have already reviewed Erth’s delightful Dinosaur Zoo and commented on its superb rapport with young audiences as well as its phenomenal puppetry and construction of a variety of dinosaurs to amaze and terrify the wide-eyed kids. Erth’s other show, Prehistoric Aquarium takes the magical artistry of Scott wright’s company a notch or more higher in a show that introduces young children and their families to the miraculous wonders of the prehistoric sea creatures that preceded the existence of humans upon the earth.
Whereas Dinosaur Zoo resembles a lesson on dinosaurs, although expertly told with lashings of cheeky humour, child participation and skillfully manipulated puppetry, Prehistoric Aquarium is more theatrical, employing cleverly devised theatrical devices, a large video screen and a mock diving chamber to transport children into the depths of the ocean.

Erth's Prehistoric Aquarium. Pho: Heidrun Lohr
Wright has also created distinct characters to introduce comedy and provide light-hearted dramatic conflict between Drew, the marketing manager, and Catherine, a marine biologist. Dressed in a canary yellow suit, Drew is the buffoon, confusing facts in his know-all blundering, while Catherine provides the actual facts and descriptions of the various creatures from the single cell creatures to the huge Kronosaurus and the Pliosaur. The names pass over me, but repetition lodges the names of some and it is a sure fire bet that the young wide-eyed and totally captivated children will remember, or will go home in search of these incredible sea creatures that existed a billion years ago, even before their grandparents were born.
Four children are coopted and clothed in ocean diving gear to plummet the depths in search of the creatures that emerge from their watery hideouts. The puppets, operated by puppeteers  with considerable strength and skill float out across the audience.  A young girl from the audience is taken into the tank to meet the Kimberella, an ancestor of the octopus. The kids scream with that fascinated delight that scares and surprises, but is kept at a safe distance. On stage the huge Kronosaurus locks jaws with the mighty Sea Rex while the submariners dart beneath the enormous puppets. Danger and excitement fill the air as the children learn of a time long, long ago when creatures of the sea were alone upon the planet. They learn of the palaeontological fossil finds in the Ediacara Hills, north of Adelaide in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges and learn of their state’s importance in unearthing the mysteries of a billion years ago.
Erth's Prehistoric Aquarium. Photo: Heidrun Lohr
Meanwhile Drew maintains the comic element with his remarks and the occasional perceptive observation that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about what existed beneath the ocean. We learn of fossils on Kangaroo Island and in Sydney’s Triassic swamp more than two hundred million years ago.
Much to the relief of their parents, the young submariners are returned safe and sound to the admiring applause of the excited audience.  Original, imaginative and impressive in it craftsmanship, Prehistoric Aquarium once again illustrates the dynamic talent of Erth’s team of creators and puppeteers. This is a show that the wide-eyed and amazed children will never forget, while also teaching them about evolution and the marvelous world we inhabit.
If Dinosaur Zoo and Prehistoric Aquarium are ever playing in a venue near you drop everything to see a show that will offer you an education and an entertainment that you will never forget.