What To Do When You Find A Dinosaur - Children's Theatre Review

My son is crazy about dinosaurs so when I saw that this play ‘What to do When You Find A Dinosaur’ was on nearby at the Burton Taylor Studio (part of the Oxford Playhouse) I was keen for him to see it.

It's a charming, fun and interactive piece for children aged 4 to 8 and their families. Most of the audience were seated on cushions on the floor and watched with eager concentration as a Georgian couple, William and Mary Buckland, explained their scientific collection and cabinet of curiosities. It looked as though the set designer, Anna Bruder, took her inspiration from the Pitt Rivers museum. This unique institution is crammed with archaeological and anthropological collections, founded by the Victorian explorer. It is a marvel to behold, and the sense of wonder at a vast number of unfamiliar objects was re-created by Bruder’s large scale cabinet which took up most of the stage behind the couple.

William and Mary Buckland really did exist and it was William who discovered a dinosaur bone in a slate quarry in Stonesfield, near Oxford in 1824. The bone is on display at Oxford's Natural History museum. As research for this production the creators visited a local primary school to find out what children knew about dinosaurs and what it might be like to discover a creature that nobody had heard of.

William and Mary Buckland, played by T J Holmes and Leonie Spilsbury, were informative and funny, encouraging the children to think about science and discovery and invited participants to help them with experiments on stage and to look for fossils under their seats. It was pleasing to see Mary Buckland treated as an equal partner in work and play in this production. There was some sense of what life may have been like for women as Mary talked about the nine, yes nine children she begot with William. They sang songs about their work and played instruments joined by Mr Frankly their excavator, played by Will Alder, on double bass.

The play reached a pleasing finale as the expectant audience finally saw what they had been waiting for – a dinosaur come to life – in the shape of a large scale puppet operated by Leonie Spilsbury.

‘What To Do When You Find a Dinosaur’ was a thoughtful, lively, educational play that every primary school would be fortunate to have performed on their premises. The show was part of the national Get Creative Family Arts Festival which ran from 9 October to 1 November 2015.

(c) Wendy Thomson 2015 @topgirls

An Oxford Playhouse Production
What To Do When You Find A Dinosaur
especially for children aged 4 to 8 and their families
Written by Nick Walker. Directed by Robin Colyer
Autumn Tour 2015

The Company
Director: Robin Colyer
Writer: Nick Walker
Designer: Anna Bruder
Composer: Ivan Stott
Lighting Designer: Ashley Bale
Company Stage Manager / Mr Frankly: Will Alder
Assistant Designer: Tom Llewellyn
Mary Buckland: Leonie Spilsbury
William Buckland: TJ Holmes

Reviewed at Burton Taylor Studio


Author's review: