Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo breaks you in gently.
They bring out the cute little baby dinos, invite loads of kids up on stage to pet them, and everybody ‘awws’ at the sweet doe-eyed creatures nestled in their handlers’ laps.
The bubbly host, dressed like a tour guide in the Australian outback, gives us fun facts from the jurassic era while behind her, inflatable cacti sway in the breeze.
But things start to heat up when she drags an adult on stage, makes him close his eyes and then what looks like an escapee from The Fly lands on his shoulder, scaring the bejeezus out of him.
‘Do you want to see something bigger?’ she coos. Of course the audience shouts back ‘Yes!’ but you can already hear nervous laughter and spot kids gripping their parents’ hands.
And when the first of several gigantic reptiles stomps into the arena, genuine screams of terror pierce the air.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, with its natural lighting and nearby location to London Zoo, is the perfect setting for this awesome family show that blends cheeky Aussie humour, science lessons and a touch of magic.
By magic, I don’t mean wand-waving illusions, but the fact that even though we know the dinosaurs are puppets, we can still suspend our disbelief enough to feel both wonder and a sense of peril.
The Babes’ first encounter with Erth’s Dinosaurs was outside the Southbank Centre at the Imagine Children’s Festival earlier this year, where kids and adults alike were running from a carnivorous Australovenator on the prowl.
It was bizarre because you could see the human legs underneath, and yet when that beast came at you… I didn’t see anybody standing still!
The atmosphere at the Open Air Theatre was only slightly more sedate, as we were ‘trapped’ in our seats and there was really nowhere to hide.
The host had a couple more very brave child volunteers on stage, trying to persuade them to get up close and personal with the larger species.
This added an extra layer of excitement as although we felt safe sitting way up in the rounds, we could practically hear the children’s hearts racing every time the dinosaurs let out a very realistic roar. Both my 4-year-old and 7-year-old had their moments of ‘hear no evil’ and ‘see no evil’!
And right before the finale, I did see one family rushing out with two tear-streaked daughters.
But for the most part, the babes giggled at the spectacle and enjoyed being ‘not that scared’ (as Ezra declared). Afterwards little ones including buggy-riders and babes-in-arms rushed to touch the puppets outside. Although Ezra did steer us away from the picnic area where the scariest dinosaur was doing his meet and greet.
Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is a must-see this summer. But only if you think you (and your juniorsauruses) are hard enough!
Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo for ages 3+ is at Open Air Theatre, Queen Mary’s Garden, Regent’s Park, NW1 (Baker St tube). 2.15pm (Mon-Wed), 11.30am & 2.15pm (Fri), 9.45am & 11.30am (Sat-Sun); £15-£20 (danger zone seats)/family ticket £50 (Aug 9-Sep 8)