This half-term, as we sat in one of Greenwich’s child-friendly cafés, one of our friends said they hadn’t ventured far beyond the London Borough that holiday.
And, who can blame them? In one central location, it has a world-class museum, a planetarium, royal residences, Greenwich theatre, a well-stocked playground (complete with a pond and pedaloes), the Cutty Sark, a foot tunnel underneath the Thames, and a cinema showing kids’ films, blockbusters and art-house pictures old and new.
We were all in Greenwich to see Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs at Greenwich Theatre. I’d seen the performance couple of times before; it’s currently on tour, and worth a repeat visit.
Here’s what I wrote previously about the show. It all still stands (except that I left Terence the Pterodactyl off my list of favourite characters. This time around, I particularly enjoyed his camp cadences…..)
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, the first book of a series, is a clever idea by Russell Ayto and Giles Adreae (who also dreamt up Purple Ronnie, which seemed to hold a monopoly on greetings cards and small gift books during the late 80s and 90s).
For those unfamiliar with the book’s plot, it features a group of small children who find a secret world in the cupboard of their teacher, Miss Pye. Once there, Flinn and his friends chance upon the hapless Captain Stubble, whose ship has been stolen by pirate dinosaurs. So the children step in to help Stubble recover his vessel. It’s a simple, age-old tale of youngsters finding a magical land, far from the influence of parents and teachers. The ineffective Stubble is the only adult involved; and after voyaging to find the ship, the children battle a set of vividly described dinosaurs to regain control of the vessel.
The performance we saw had been dramatically translated from the book by Les Petits, from the team behind Les Enfants Terribles. Captain Flinn works well on stage. As the musical refrain went, “[we all] love adventure, and a quest”. A journey, with a fight at the end of it, is simple enough to perform in a way that even very young children can grasp.
I took Austin to see Captain Flinn at the Southbank centre, last summer. The show seems to have matured since then, with more assured acting. Will Seaward, who played Miss Pye and Captain Stubble, was of particular note: a cross between Robbie Coltrane and Jack Black, only with CBeebies training. For this version, there was more detail in the stage props, which included familiar objects like scooters, and bedsheets that happened to be the very same as Austin’s. However, I was a little disappointed not to see the same amount of shimmering hand-held puppets making crowd excursions as there had been on the Southbank.
That’s not to say that the audience wasn’t thoroughly roused in this performance. Cheering, shouting, clapping, and shouts of ‘behind you!’ were all encouraged, and our two children were completely engaged throughout. The appearance of the incredible, menacing T-Rex puppet, at the end, was perhaps a little more child-friendly because the dinosaur wasn’t able to scare the audience in close-up as it did on the Southbank (I was even more fond of this creation the second time round. His face is terrifying, but he’s clad in a louche red satin dressing gown, reminiscent of Quentin Crisp).
I would happily watch this jolly, rambunctious performance again. Following its stint at Edinburgh, it’s now on tour across the UK until the end of October. So if you have a child over two, do have a look to see whether it’s playing near you.
(Incidentally, Pluntree Cafe is worth a look too. It tooks ages for our food to arrive, but we were a large party – four adults and eight children, all ordering at once – and there was a two-storey playhouse to keep the children occupied through the wait).
We were invited to this performance of Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs at Greenwich Theatre. All views are my own.
Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best theatres for kids in London.