How one theatre company made Jurassic Park – The Play
Jurassic Park - The Play

Twenty-two years since it roared onto cinema screens, Jurassic Park is well and truly part of pop culture consciousness. Odds are, if you’re a millennial, you’re likely to slip the odd “clever girl” or judicious “nature finds a way” into conversation when the topic allows, and the sound of that bombastic John Williams score will send a pleasing thrill down your spine.

It’s this shared, innate nostalgia that Lecoq troupe Superbolt Theatre excavate and utilise in their utterly delightful new show … Jurassic Park, the tale of a warring Dorset family’s attempts to re-stage – yep, you guess it – Jurassic Park.

Its a bold conceit, trying to bring to life a re-enactment of the biggest CGI spectacular of its day using just some household items, a remote control helicopter and a few strategically placed ferns. But the company – Simon Maeder, Frode Gjerløw and Maria Askew, pull it all off with aplomb, thanks to a winning mixture of inventiveness, humour and warm-heartedness. They spoke to Katrina Conaglen about how they brought a slice of big screen magic to the stage.

So, we know the film, but what’s the play all about?

Simon: “Jurassic Park is the story about a family in Lyme Regis. They’re having a memorial screening of the film for their mother who passed away last year. She was a palaeontologist. Something goes wrong, and they end up having to recreate the film themselves. It’s very fun, it’s very silly and it’s also quite touching.”

Maria: “You have your favourite cinematic moments from Jurassic Park, but also a completely original family story.”

Frode: “I play the dad in the family, who had a really troubled relationship with the mum before they divorced and now has a troubled relationship with his children, especially the daughter Jade. He doesn’t seem to know how really to deal with loss and with his kids, so in the show you see him sort of struggle to communicate with them and for them to communicate with him as well.”

Maria Askew takes the wheel in Superbolt Theatre's production of Jurassic Park
Maria Askew takes the wheel in Superbolt Theatre’s production of Jurassic Park

When devising the play, why did you choose Jurassic Park? Were any other films in the potential mix? 

Maria: “We made a list of all sorts of blockbusters. We had Titanic on there, Independence Day, we had all kinds of genres and some new ones, some older ones and we even went to the cinema to see the new Godzilla . But actually the newer blockbusters didn’t hold up as well as Jurassic Park, which is actually a very good movie. Entertaining, very charming and not full of superheroes and just full of real quirky people. And that was very appealing to us.”

Simon: “We thought ‘what’s the most unstage-able film?’ We wanted to tackle the un-doable.”

Frode: “Out of all the blockbusters we discussed, Jurassic Park was the one that most took us back to childhood. The most nostalgic. It lent itself to the family theme most, also because in the film there’s a storyline of children and grown ups: what family is and how they tackle challenges together. It’s also unique in the way that it has that thing of being a big massive film, but also having a cult following. Like Maria said, it’s an astonishing film, we watched it a hundred times and we’re still not sick of it. It just doesn’t grow old.”

Simon: “Even comparing the use of CGI and monsters and dinosaurs it’s still a classic for that. It’s aged fantastically.”

jurassic park

So do you have to have seen Jurassic Park to enjoy the play?

Simon: When we started this project, we were a little worried about that but it turned out to really not be a problem as you get this other story of the family and because the moments we pick up from the film are so iconic. People have come out saying ‘I must admit I haven’t seen the film but i loved it’. And we’ve had that response over and over again.

Frode: “That was one of the reasons we wanted to spend so much time on the family life in this show, because we really didn’t want it to be an exclusive ‘member of a club’ type show.”

Maria: “We’ve even had a reviewer say I’m now going to watch the film and I’m not sure it will hold up as well as Superbolt’s, so she was obviously all for it even though she’d not seen the films!”

Everyday items become dinosaurs in an utterly transformative way during the show. How did you devise the dinosaur bits?

Maria: “We have to be as ingenious as we can – we’re on a very shoestring budget and that’s where we can offer something that the film doesn’t offer. Obviously they have incredible CGI but we have to be much more inventive and work a lot harder with what we’ve got. Is it enough to use a backpack as a T-rex or is it enough to use an umbrella as a velicoraptor? Actually, that’s part of the charm of the piece. The conviction that carries it through makes it believable – and pleasurable – to the audience.”

Family, heart, humour and ingenuity – Steven Spielberg himself would love it.

Jurassic Park, Assembly Roxy, 6.50pm, until 30 Aug / listings

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