“Prehistoric Aquarium” delights children with beautiful creatures of Earth’s past

“Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium,” a new performance, follows in the vein of “Walking With Dinosaurs - The Arena Spectacular” in showing audiences (particularly the young) a realistic and lifelike depiction of prehistoric creatures. (Ed Bierman/Flickr Creative Commons)

“Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium,” a new performance, follows in the vein of “Walking With Dinosaurs - The Arena Spectacular” in showing audiences (particularly the young) a realistic and lifelike depiction of prehistoric creatures.

The show was presented by two Australian women, Catherine McNamara and Tina Jackson. McNamara was the more knowledgeable of the two, presenting the scientific background behind each animal, while Jackson was loud and boisterous, providing most of the show’s comic relief.

Both women worked well together and especially worked well with the children; Jackson made them laugh and McNamara used her soothing demeanor to calm them down during some of the more frightening moments.

The show presented a variety of marine life, showcasing the development of undersea organisms from the unicellular to the leviathans. Each animal was brought to life with tremendous artistry and detail, not only in terms of appearance but also in the fluidity of movement and occasional use of beautifully rendered bioluminescence.

Some of the highlights were the giant anglerfish and the sea jellies. Both utilized stage lighting and fog to give the appearance of living motion and suspension in the air. The weightlessness captured by these puppets was impressive and helped show the audience the beauty of undersea life.

The most impressive puppet of all was, without a doubt, the adult plesiosaurus. Previously, the show featured appearances by two juveniles, each puppeteered by a performer in a rig which projected the animal forward on a sort of crane with suspension wires to achieve the appearance of swimming for the flippers and movement of the neck. While technically impressive, neither could compete against the mother. This puppet was almost as large as the Jorgensen stage itself and its massive neck reached out almost into the audience.

One complaint I would lodge against the show was its use of a dividing screen between the audience and the puppets for the first half of the show. The creatures could only be seen through a small rectangle in the screen, causing a lack of immersion for the audience. The opening also dragged.

It was also clear the show was directed toward a young audience, which makes it slightly difficult for a college student to review. While I hoped for a more in-depth analysis of these animals and their behaviors, I also understand they need to hold the attention of younger viewers. Some of the humor also felt forced or overly silly, but a younger audience probably found it funny.

All in all, I would recommend this show to anyone with children or much younger siblings. It provides a baseline knowledge of marine history and entertains with beautiful puppets. For students or adults, this would probably not hold your interest, but it is tailor-made for children and would definitely succeed in giving them a fun experience.


Evan Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at evan.burns@uconn.edu.