Tyrannical Tyrannosaurus Rex, stomping Stegosaurus and roaring, raging raptors – see the world’s prehistoric creatures come back to life as the arena spectacular Walking With Dinosaurs kicks off its UK tour in Newcastle. We catch up with the show’s narrator (and star of Countryfile) Michaela Strachan to find out more.
How are you feeling ahead of the show?
Very excited! The music is just stunning – it’s a fantastic score, so dramatic. And we’ve been watching a recording of one of the tours a few years ago, and just seeing the dinosaurs and how realistic they are and the size and scale of them, it’s all just really exciting.
What was it about the show that made you want to be involved?
It didn’t really take much thought! Once I was asked to do it and I saw the prerecording they sent me, I just thought – this is going to be amazing. I trained in musical theatre before I went into television, so it’s great to be able to use those skills again and get on an enormous stage and perform in front of a live audience. It’s not something that fazes me, it’s something that really excites me.
How much have you performed on stage over the years?
Well, I’ve been involved in 18 pantomimes while I’ve had my television career. I’ve also taken my one-woman show for kids around zoos, wildlife parks and festivals, so I really enjoy performing and I’ve tried to keep that going. But I’ve never done anything on this scale before. The thought of going into the O2 is really thrilling. I want to go slightly diva-ish and have something really outrageous and pretend to be a rockstar!
You’ve got to! So what’s your role in the show?
I play the role of the palaeontologist, called Huxley, who narrates the performance – but I’m not just standing in the corner narrating, I’m very involved in the show and interact with the dinosaurs. There’s a lot of information in the show, along with the spectacle and the special effects, so most kids will go out understanding the different eras of the dinosaurs a little better.
Did you have any particular interest in dinosaurs before?
To be honest, I wasn’t one of these people who was mad-keen on dinosaurs when I was a kid. I was far too interested in ballet dancing! But, obviously, I’m interested in anything to do with the natural world. We’ve just got to the end of the script now, and when the comet comes and destroys all of the dinosaurs, you just think – we’re so desperately trying to not let anything become extinct now, and yet everything is still becoming extinct. In our office in London, there’s no greenery that I can see out of the window; there’s just people and concrete. It just makes you think.
Do you think looking so far into the past impacts how you look at the natural world now?
Definitely. When you look at how long the dinosaurs were around, we’ve been around for a minuscule amount of time in comparison, and yet we’ve done so much damage to the planet. I think looking back puts things into perspective. Also, looking at how things that were around at the time of the dinosaurs, like a dung beetle, are still here.
What can fans expect from the show this year?
There are a few subtle changes [from previous years] because they make sure the show is accurate in terms of anything new scientifically that comes up about dinosaurs. So one of the dinosaurs has been found to have spiky sort of plumes on its head, so we’ve had to change the animatronics to fit that, and add that into the script as well. One of the other changes is that I’m the first female to play Huxley. This tour has gone on twice before in the UK, and it’s gone on all over Europe (and in other places as well) and I’m the only female that’s ever played the part. So that’s quite nice. Power to women, eh!
How do the dinosaurs move about on stage?
It depends. People are actually inside some of them. So, for instance, the baby T-Rex is one person inside the costume. For the much larger dinosaurs, there’s about three people inside each dinosaur. The big ones also have a lump of earth underneath them, and in that lump of earth is somebody driving a sort of go-kart that moves the dinosaur. Then there’s another couple of people moving what’s called a voodoo puppet rig – it’s a metal rig that is the same shape as the dinosaur, so if they move the rig offstage, the technology will then move the dinosaur on stage. It’s truly amazing. Watching the prerecording of the show, it’s stunning how they move, it’s so incredibly realistic. And I think that’s what’s so thrilling about the show – the scale of it, the size of it, how realistic it is, the wonderfully dramatic music, the special effects, the roaring of the dinosaurs – you know, you can’t help but get totally immersed into it.
Walking with Dinosaurs will be touring the North throughout July and August:
20th–22nd July – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
10–11th August – FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield
22nd–23rd August – First Direct Arena, Leeds
For more information and tickets, visit: www.dinosaurlive.com