Monday night’s ODN performance of Jurassic Park Reduced promised a lot: an accurate(ish) adaptation of Jurassic Park, sock puppets, shadow puppets and Jeff Goldblum.
The irresistibility of this enticing combination was all too evident as am-dram lovers, nostalgic film fanatics and friends of the cast caused the queue to stretch around the Drama Barn’s corner. Underneath a achingly cold York evening sky condensation escaped the blued lips of would be punters, mittens clenched, as anticipation rose to fever pitch and the barn filled to bursting capacity.
With the excited chatter quickly dying down as light filled the stage, Simon Lewis as the play’s lead Dr. Alan Grant, wasted no time in bulldozing through the forth wall and telling us of his recent inclusion in the cast. Pantomime banter over and the audience could once again feel safe as the play began in ernest.
The opening scene exhibited one of the four identifiable kinds of humour employed in the production – pointing out absurdities and holes in the film’s narrative. Crowding around the spoils of an archeological dig, Grant and a group of students rattled off a list highlighting the vast gap between movie science and, real, actual, non-dinosaur science. An almost audible cathartic sigh was heard from the audience at this point as an air of tension was replaced by one of relief as the elephant quickly left the room; discrete nods and furtive glances seeming to say “Jurassic Park is a bit shit. I’m glad that’s been acknowledged.”
That second kind of humour was similarly evident from the off, as Lewis nailed a frantic caricature of the film’s loveable yet slightly clueless scientific dreamboat. Such overblown stereotyping caused a lot of the play’s laughs as Grace Winpenny played a gratuitously needy, parentally estranged Timmy and Dag Corbett the haplessly rich, endearingly senile Mr Hammond. A couple of scenes later and Mike Everard took this device to its limit as Dennis Nedry, whacking a chocolate bar in his gob and bemoaning the typecasting woes of chubby 90s actors. Whilst there was humour to be found in all of these performances, Joe Rawcliffe was the clear stand-out as the perpetually creepy Jeff Goldblum. Whether he was working from life experience or just incredible at pretending to be a borderline autistic, irrefutable letch, his quiet stammer brought a cool air to an otherwise balls-out production.
The third kind of humour, whilst perhaps not as sophisticated, revolved around dinosaurs. The limited budget thankfully did not limit the playwright’s ingenuity as T-Rex and velociraptor shadows danced around the back of the stage and the show’s creators donned sock diplodoci; the audience treated to a glimpse of the imperial Morenike Adebayo and effervescent Emy Martyn. We came for dinosaurs, and we fucking got dinosaurs.
The fourth kind of humour was the point at which the previous three kinds converged and, sadly, where the play slightly unravelled; its descent into hysteria. What began as sweet, agreeable jibes became an in-depth exegesis into a flawed film that most people haven’t seen since the jurassic stage of their infancy. What began as hyperbolic character mocking became a little drawn out on the 12th mention of chaos-theory and the 20th female stereotype, regardless of the layers of irony. What began as a unique take on dinosaur representation remained a unique take on dinosaur representation. I cannot find fault in this bit. The real problem was that it all got a bit shouty, a bit hectic. As someone who generally dislikes anything but cooly underplayed endings and has never written a budgetless play about dinosaurs, I’m not in a position to judge. I just feel the heart of the play was lost somewhere along the way.