This is a story of the end of the world.
The World According to Dinosaurs is a spectacle of dance, drama, music, comedy, and palaeontology. Our hero is a no-nonsense barista (Belle Hansen) struggling to make it through a regular workday. The last EVER regular workday. She is efficient and professional but has no time for insights, philosophy, or the customers.
Every hero needs a foil and for her that comes in her sidekick co-worker (Amelia Newman), someone with a completely different outlook on life and work, seemingly fascinated by everything in the world except for her job as a barista, much to our hero’s chagrin.
Storms are raging outside and there is an ever-present feeling of impending doom, yet the day goes on as any other. Throughout the day our two baristas question the human experience and its potential extinction. It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel like a low-fat macchiato with almond milk (that’s 50 cents extra).
Directed by Cassandra Grey and presented by Frenzy Theatre Co., The World According to Dinosaurs is the brainchild of writers Belle Hansen and Amelia Newman. I was lucky enough to see their previous work ‘MOTHERLOD_^E’, itself an incredibly ambitious production that I loved. So, I was excited to see their next project.
In some ways, this is a more scaled back creation having a smaller set and cast. However, with 8 people often on stage at a time, and the production filled with great dance choreography, impressive lighting effects and sound design Frenzy Theatre Co. have realized another amazing hour of entertainment.
The show is amazingly complex. While Hansen and Newman are the main focus of the story, the six other cast members keep themselves busy. Constantly surprising audiences by coming and going, playing different hilarious characters. But the ideas and concepts explored by our two stars are often relayed in interpretive group pantomime.
The first unexpected burst of this comes in a wonderfully bonkers puppet show. Out of almost nowhere, Newman’s character explains her theories on how dinosaurs evolved to become birds. Suddenly our supporting cast using sock puppets, and their own bodies, break into a large choreographed sequence. This is but one of the show’s surprises and I was greatly impressed by how well the ensemble worked together.
The lighting design by Theo Viney is incredible, setting the mood for the show’s hyper reality cutaways. At one point, the simple set of this average café is transformed into a horrific underwater hellscape. This working in tandem with music and sound design by Jack Burmeister. I adored his work on MOTHERLOD_^E and going beyond music, I think this is an even greater achievement. The feeling of dread we sense over the hour coming largely from the soundscape he creates.
However, the subject of sound is perhaps the show’s greatest weakness, at least perhaps at its current location. Whether it be the acoustics of the La Mama Courthouse venue or not, often lines can be hard to hear. The narrator’s voice was regularly completely drowned out by a clamour of cast, music and effects.
I will admit that I feel some of The World According to Dinosaurs and its intended meanings may have flown over my head. Regardless, the show provides an incredibly fascinating hour of entertainment. It is a very absurdist show mixing slice of life with romance, sci-fi, meta self-referential voice over narration and much more. I couldn’t exactly tell you what the overall message was. But I can tell you that I enjoyed it greatly.
The World According to Dinosaurs is playing at La Mama Courthouse in Melbourne until June 4th.
For more information and ticketing, visit:
Photography by Darren Gill.