EFR - Reviews of Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs 2: The Magic Cutlass

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs 2: The Magic Cutlass

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Isobel Roser

at 09:40 on 7th Aug 2016

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Daunting dinosaurs, daring pirates and distinctive sausages, all feature in this wonderful reimagining of the beloved children’s book by Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto. Following on from their huge success with the original book in the series, 'Les Petits' have upped the ante for this year’s Fringe offering, with multiple puppets and wonderful costumes for children to marvel at. Fast paced and full of energy, this show packed some serious punch. The four cast members are solid as an ensemble, managing to keep their young audience engaged throughout. With plenty of laughs for the adults as well, this is wholesome family entertainment at its best.

The production revolved around ‘Flinn’, a schoolboy hero forced to face arch-enemy ‘Captain T-Rex’ after his friends have been kidnapped. Deep sea diving, sword fighting and magical moments ensue as ‘Flinn’ tries to outsmart the troublesome T-Rex, and subsequently save his friends. Clever scene and costume changes allow the actors to move seamlessly through the script, while musical numbers help to punctuate the production as a whole. Boy-band style songs combined with memorable power ballads make for a show with real singalong potential.

In many ways the fantastic costuming and puppetry really steal the show. From ‘Captain T-Rex’s’ hulking figure and comically small arms, to the delicate shadow puppetry of the diving scene, there was much to delight and amaze here. The actors excelled in bringing the puppets to life, instilling them with real character and personality. Sound and lighting effects are used effectively to accentuate the ingenuity of the puppetry, with big booming footsteps signalling the arrival of ‘Captain T-Rex’ for example.

Striking a careful balance between clarity and entertainment value in children’s shows is always tricky to pull off. The cast of ‘Captain Flinn’ appear to cover this difficult territory with ease, and never fall into the trap of patronising their young audience. The enthusiasm and gusto of the ensemble is constant, enabling the cast to maintain audience engagement throughout. Patrick Tolan and Patrick Warner are arguably the stand-out performers of the piece, providing comic relief for children and adults alike. Warner’s turn as ‘Captain T-Rex’ terrifies and amuses the young audience in equal measure, offering belly laughs and nervous squeals apiece.

Plucky ‘Flinn’ and his friends serve up excellent family entertainment through their adventures and misadventures in escaping the clutches of ‘Captain T-Rex’. At times I felt that some aspects of the plot could prove a challenge for very young children to grasp, but it suits the age demographic of five and upwards perfectly. The values of fun, friendship and imagination are at the heart of this show, proving that you are never too old for pirate dinosaur capers.

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Jessica Baxter

at 09:50 on 7th Aug 2016

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I enjoy children's entertainment as much as the next nostalgic adult, so ‘Captain Flinn And the Pirate Dinosaurs 2’ does not fail to deliver on suspense, comedy and action for me- but not without its flaws. This stage adaption of the popular children’s book of the same name is a light-hearted adventure drama about a boy named Flinn who, after getting into trouble with dinosaur pirates, has to save his friends from the villainous Captain T-Rex.

The eponymous hero is valiant enough, with just the right amount of narcissism to provide the path to self-improvement and humility by the end of the play. Every few scenes, he launches into song, puffed chest and brandishing fake scimitar like any young boy playing the hero. The pseudo-Hans Zimmer musical numbers are extremely fun, complemented by cascades of bubbles and swirling, neon stage lights. The other actors sing, dance and play-fight well enough, but the physical elements of the piece aren’t up to scratch.

The costumes are something of a let down: they look overused, a little rusty, and not covering enough of the actors’ heads to convince anyone. Young children need constant visual stimulation to accompany the fast-paced language of a play, so I’m not sure if youngsters could follow the main plot. Saying that, one of the youngest audience members immediately spotted the inconsistent logic when an actor had swapped roles off-stage. ‘Where is the other dinosaur?’ he demanded. No fooling this guy.

Like a lot of children’s entertainment, the play is veined with serious, slightly dark undertones: one of the pirate dinosaurs is forced into the absolutely harrowing sausage-making machine, the only source of food for the on-board pirates, and the evil Captain T-Rex reveals his self-hatred for his small arms as he tries to reach for small objects.

These moments are, of course, quite funny. However, laughs from the audience were from adults rather than the children themselves. It is highly unlikely that kids under ten would understand the only funny jokes of the play. For example, when Tom is asked how he can successfully read a treasure map, he earnestly replies: ‘I was top of my orienteering club in Class 3B’. The word ‘orienteering’ is probably lost on young children, but most are just awestruck by the concept of dinosaur pirates in the first place.

Overall, Captain Flinn and his play are a mixed bag – kids will probably be entertained but neither hugely convinced nor gasping in wonder. However, it’s good, easy-going family fun that successfully evokes ripples of laughter at comedy that breaks the fourth wall.

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