Love, loss and nostalgia run deep as a grieving family re-enact Spielberg’s dino classic
Every family has its rituals. They can germinate as special moments that grow to be remembered and re-enacted over time, becoming part of family folklore, and they can begin in as simple a way as a palaeontologist sharing her favourite film, Jurassic Park, with her husband and children.
It would be an understatement to say that Spielberg’s 1993 dino adventure holds a special place for the Park family. No more so than now that their mother has passed away, leaving overwhelmed yet well-meaning father Terry (Frode Gjerløw), hostile teen Jade (Maria Askew) and wide-eyed boy Noah (Simon Maeder) to make a life without her.
As an audience, we meet the Parks in the Lyme Regis Community Centre as they prepare to host a memorial screening of Jurassic Park. Things are all set to run smoothly – a trio of ferns is laid out on stage, the iconic sign of the Isla Nublar island park is writ large in cardboard and colouring pens, Terry holds the VHS of the film (taped off the telly, ’90s ads and all) in his hands – except that, to his horror, there’s no video inside. Refusing to see his mother’s memorial fail, Noah grabs a microphone and begins to imitate the soundscape of an ominous prehistoric forest. Soon, Jade and Terry join in; first reluctantly, then whole-heartedly. The Jurassic Parody begins.
The real joy of these scenes is the total sincerity in which the family obsessively re-enact famous moments from the film, down to fine details like a glass of water rumbling or a raptor learning to open a door handle. On top of that, they showcase the trio’s impressive physicality and vocal range.
Naturally, the family's re-enactment is slightly scrappy and charmingly DIY. And, like a well-worn VHS tape that has been recorded over a few too many times, the story begins to warp and crack. Soon, memories from the past – the painful recent and distant happy ones – begin to play out. Is the whip-smart resident of the island, testing the boundaries and planning her escape, really a velociraptor? (Clever girl). Or are we now talking about Jade, the grieving teenager, unable to deal with school?
The word nostalgia comes from two Greek words: nostos (return home) and algos (pain). Dinosaur Park is an exercise in brilliant storytelling, and it’s an exploration of family ritual and disfunction, successfully existing somewhere in between the simple joys of togetherness and complex loss. There’s no doubt that this little gem with a big heart from UK-based Superbolt Theatre is one of the most unforgettable shows at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
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