Jurassic Park; Tribute Acts; The Hogwallops

Matt Trueman reviews: Jurassic Park (3 stars) | Tribute Acts (3 stars) | The Hogwallops (4 stars)

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Published 16 Aug 2015

Jurassic Park is about dinosaurs, right? Ah, ah, ah. No, it’s not. Look past the raptors and the rexes, and you’ll find a film about family, loss and coping with the choices you make in life. That’s the smart thing about Superbolt’s lo-fi re-enactment: it starts to reframe Steven Spielberg’s classic as something else altogether.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s mostly an excuse for three decent Lecoq-trained performers to do some tidy dinosaur impressions—and, hey, they deliver on that front—but there’s definitely more to it than that. Clever girls – and boys.

The set-up is this: in a Lyme Regis community centre, the Park family have gathered friends and relatives to remember their mother with a special screening of their favourite film, Jurassic Park. It’s what she would have wanted, apparently. (I’d have Gérard Courant’s six-day-long Cinématon. Never forget.) Only, of course, on the day of the screening, the Parks are hit by that perennial household curse: an empty VHS case.

Cue an idea: “Da-da-da-daa-daa. Da-da-da-daa-daa.” Suddenly, son Noah (Simon Maeder) is rifling about in the pot plants, bulging one eye through a crack in his fingers and skulking the stage with teeny-tiny dino arms. Quicker than you can say, “Life, uh, found a way,” the whole family is on their feet as John Hammond, Ellie Sattler, Robert Muldoon and co.

It’s a gregarious, knockabout routine, a whizz through those iconic moments with whatever comes to hand: a tiny cuddly sheep disappears, a glass of water ripples, an umbrella becomes a hissing, spitting dilophosaurus. Best of all is the rucksack T-Rex, straps for its skull and a cavernous zipper mouth.

What you realise, though, is that Drs Grant and Sattler, with little Lex and Timmy Murphy in tow, become a kind of surrogate family. That poorly triceratops, breathing heavily on the ground, now echoes the image of a mother laid up on her deathbed, and John Hammond's folly has similarities to the Parks' father, who brought his kids into the world without fully clocking the consequences.

It’s strongest as a reflection on pop culture, classic films and nostalgia. Why are these cultural artefacts so comforting? Why do we watch them again and again, relishing lines we learned a long time ago? Unlike life, they’re fixed and fossilised – known commodities that never change over time, a direct line to the past and to childhood.

True, one wishes that Superbolt really committed to their chosen scenario—completely investing in that screening scenario without all the expository flashbacks—and they’re still a long way short of a rigorous reframing, but this is a long way from a six-foot turkey.

There are two real-life dinosaurs in Tribute Acts: Cheryl Gallacher and Tess Seddon have put their old men onstage. Sam Gallacher and Rodger Seddon appear on video as two floating hologram-like heads, while their daughters fire a volley of questions at them from the stage.

Each quizzed the other’s father, hoping to find the person behind the parent. Seddon interviewed Sam, Gallagher grilled Rodger – and what you see, ever so slightly, are traces of flirtation: older men peacocking for their daughter’s best friend. Both turned up in suits, unexpectedly, and both deploy dad humour. It’s a little icky. Their daughters roll their eyes. This is a show that holds fathers up as gods, then holds them to account.

It’s ramshackle, but raw: the questions build, gradually, towards bigger betrayals – divorce and adultery. There’s something cruel about the show’s push towards public humiliation, but it’s justified—just—by its wider politics. The fallen gods of their fathers are linked to the politicians and public figures of their childhood: Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Pierce Brosnan—men who threatened to change the world, but left it much the same, if not more crocked. It’s an intriguing idea—fuming and feminist—but this skittish scrapbook of a show can’t quite drive it home.

The Hogwallops are my favourite family on the Fringe. They’re a colourful and cacophonous clan, running this way and that in a cloud flour as they try and bake a cake together. It’s one of the most anarchic, maniacal hours of circus about – perfect for a family audience.

Lost in Translation have built a full-blown circus out of the domestic sphere: a washing line becomes a rope swing, eggs get juggled and strongmen chalk their hands with flour. What makes it so special is that it never lets up, even for a second. There’s tumbling onstage and a trapeze act above. Aerialists whizz over the ensemble’s heads and human towers do battle. Chris Dingli directs our attention with skill and instils a skittering momentum and a frazzled edge of danger.

Yet there’s still time for strong solos. Thibaut Lezervant very nearly pulls off an ambitious juggling set, flicking balls from his feet to his hands and back, and Annabel Carberry ends the show with an inspired trapeze routine on a zimmerframe. As apparatus, it’s inventive, with plenty of possibility, but it’s superb as a metaphor: a daughter hanging off a symbol of her father’s old-age. Who needs CGI dinosaurs anyway?