Long live Kandinsky. No, not the Russian abstract artist, because he died in 1944, but the fringe theatre company led by Al Smith, James Yeatman and Lauren Mooney. With ‘Dinomania’, they have just added another superbly intelligent devised show to their growing list of superbly intelligent devised shows.
What never ceases to amaze with Kandinsky is just how much they can cram into a short space of time. With 2016’s ‘Still Ill’ they tackled psychosomatic illness. With last year’s ‘Trap Street’ they took on the history of post-war housing. ‘Dinomania’ is just as good as both, if not better. It’s layered, educational and shot through with gripping historical drama. Plus, crucially, it’s about dinosaurs.
It’s also about fossils and how we came to understand them. And about the struggle between religion and science. And about class, and who gets to write the history books. And about the founding of the Natural History Museum. And about the tragic life of Gideon Mantell, the country doctor and amateur geologist whose discovery of the iguanadon shaped our understanding of the natural world, laying the foundations for Darwin.
It’s all woven by Smith, Yeatman and Mooney into a playful, exhilarating and bloody interesting 85 minutes of skits, sketches and scenes – the imagination of their content matched by the imagination of their staging. Fossils are represented by stiff, starchy scraps of fabric. The remorseless scythe of scientific history by a plastic gun. And the whole thing runs like clockwork to Zac Gvirtzman’s evolving piano score, which he plays live on a stripped-down piano at the back of the stage.
Kudos to him for keeping time. Kudos to the four-strong, multi-role-playing devising cast which includes impish fringe favourite Sophie Steer and the brilliantly bullying Harriet Webb. Most of all, kudos to Kandinsky. No one else makes theatre quite like this.