Tag Archives: Oliver Lansley

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs

Captain Flinn And The Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass


Christmas in Leicester Square

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs

Captain Flinn And The Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass

Christmas in Leicester Square

Reviewed – 10th December 2019



“a colourful and creative hour which contains enough energy, adventure and poop deck jokes for the little ones without them getting restless”


Dastardly dinosaurs creating swashbuckling mayhem on the ocean deep can only mean another popular children’s story is translated from book to stage as part of Leicester Square’s Christmas activities.

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass, one of Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto’s adventure series featuring the same lovable characters, is brought vividly to life by the Les Petits Theatre company in this fast-moving and fun adaptation by Oliver Lansley.

Jollier than the Jolly Roger and with as many ho-ho-ho’s as there are yo-ho-ho’s this show in the Spiegeltent blends imaginative set (Zoe Squire using items from a school gym, such as ladders, benches and a trampoline imaginatively) with awesome puppets and costumes (Max Humphries and Zahra Mansouri), catchy songs (Jack Graham Thomas) and lively performances from a tireless cast of four.

The company presented the first Captain Flinn book on stage six years ago so are familiar with the characters and prehistoric pirate puns already, adding energy and zest to this sequel.

Those familiar with the books will know about the kids at St Barnabas Primary School and their teacher Miss Pie who, as the show opens, are staging a low-cost drama about Captain Flinn and the pirates, complete with crash helmets, sieves and oven mitts as part of their dinosaur costumes.

But even as the budget-friendly T-Rex enters with a roar of, “We’re a T-Rex from the last crustaceous period!” the pupils lose interest, recognising that real dinosaurs were “bigger and horribler.”

And so enter the “real” dinosaurs as the fierce and vain Mr T the T-Rex kidnaps Flinn and his friends to help him find the magic cutlass which grants unlimited wishes to those who find it (though as Mr T has smudged the paper telling him about it, he is convinced he is hunting for unlimited fishes).

lt’s a colourful and creative hour which contains enough energy, adventure and poop deck jokes for the little ones without them getting restless (the recommended age is three years and above) but there’s also plenty to hold the attention of the adults, such as the DJ Rocktopus fishcotheque populated by rave jellyfish (an inventive use of bowls and fluorescent scarves) and the charming shadow puppetry.

Along the way there’s the ever-present threat of walking the plank or being tossed into the sausage machine, which provides the staple diet for the hungry pirate dinosaurs.

The four-strong cast must be exhausted with lots of racing around and efficient quick changes in what is presumably a relatively small backstage space, but the vivacity never once sags.

Mark Middleton gives the somewhat terrifying antagonist Mr T vulnerability and a personality one wouldn’t expect in such a larger than life dino costume. He also plays the schoolteacher Miss Pie, despairing as the production gets out of hand, and hoping to resolve the chaos by singing a tribute to her cat Harold.

Tom Myles is a fabulous Flinn, the young action hero with a stiff upper lip and a leadership verging on petulance, doubling up as Terrence the pterodactyl terror of the high seas. There’s a delightful tender moment when he loses his nerve and calls for mummy, which in turn leads to some careless wish-making and turns out to save the day.

Ellie Pawsey is both the brave Pearl and Tracy the triceratops, while Stephan Boyce is the nervous Tom and Stephen the stegosaurus. There isn’t much opportunity for individual characterisation, but the cast members work well together to keep the attention rapt, injecting some healthy silliness when things get a bit too scary for the wide-eyed young audience.

Director Hal Chambers ensures a rollicking pace, setting a boisterous level from start to finish.

There’s a picture to colour on the programme, but it’s worth checking out the Les Petits website, where you can also download a range of fun activities related to the show.

This X-tremely entertaining adventure marks the spot with a buccaneering holiday treat that is something to treasure.


Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Gail Harland


Captain Flinn And The Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass

Christmas in Leicester Square until 5th January


Recently reviewed by David:
Bruised Fruit | ★★★★ | Drayton Arms | August 2019
Anna Bella Eema | ★★★ | Arcola Theatre | September 2019
Room Service | ★★★★★ | Bread & Roses Theatre | September 2019
The Hound Of The Baskervilles | ★★★★ | Abney Park Cemetery | September 2019
Homing Birds | ★★★★ | Tara Theatre | November 2019
The Arrival | ★★★★ | Bush Theatre | November 2019
Goldilocks And The Three Musketeers | ★★★★★ | Battersea Arts Centre | December 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews


The Trench – 3 Stars


The Trench

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 16th October 2018


“a slick, impressive show, so long as you don’t dig too deep”


As the only tunneller awarded a Victoria Cross in the First World War, William Hackett provides inspiration, storyline and main character (renamed Bert) for this play by Oliver Lansley. Despite his heart condition, Hackett enlisted in late 1915. A few months later he was denied leave to visit his 14-year-old son, who had lost a leg in a mining accident. Then, on 22nd June 1916, he was trapped underground with four comrades by a German mine blast. Over several days he helped rescue three but died going back for the last.

In this already cheerless saga, the amputation is replaced by news from home of a baby lost in childbirth, heightening perhaps Bert’s motivation to save his much younger colleague. To ramp up the melodrama further, the journey unfolds via a solid hour of iambic pentameter, spoken mostly by Bert (Lansley himself) as he scrapes and writhes through a claustrophobic set, aided by the multiple stage skills of Edward Cartwright, James Hastings and Kadell Herida, who play his comrades. The entombed ensemble is accompanied by the brooding presence stage left of the show’s composer Alexander Wolfe riffing dolefully on guitars, with sad melodies on sundry instruments occasionally aided by the multi-talented Hastings.

If this sounds unremittingly gloomy, it is. On the upside, The Trench is the work of Les Enfant Terribles, a theatre company with its own brand of showmanship and production design. Samuel Wyer provides an explosion of visual ideas and techniques, which provide the energy needed for an otherwise plodding tale. Shadow puppetry is used especially well to depict sepulchral columns of doomed troops; high tension wires and projections combine to create a cinematic overhead camera effect as Bert stumbles through the mire of the battlefield. The team also depicts the horrors that Bert encounters with a series of demonic puppets resembling the rotting carcasses of rats and horses, culminating in a red dragon, a reference to the Red Dragon crater by which the area is still known.

It’s hard to think what William Hackett would make of all this. Most likely he would enjoy the technical flair along with everyone else and may have recognised, too, the Music Hall style rhyming monologue, sustained from ‘A species on extinction’s brink’ all the way through to ‘The flickering flame of fate has faded’. Hackett might even have recognised Oliver Lansley’s actor-manager function but if so, probably wouldn’t have recognised himself. Hackett’s photos online suggest a less commanding figure than the one portrayed and a more vulnerable performance would have raised the emotional engagement hugely.

The glorification of WW1’s futile sacrifices can become a divisive subject especially at this time of year, but there’s no escaping that this is a slick, impressive show, so long as you don’t dig too deep.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Rah Petherbridge


The Trench

Southwark Playhouse until 17th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Bananaman | ★★★ | January 2018
Pippin | ★★★★ | February 2018
Old Fools | ★★★★★ | March 2018
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Brusing | ★★★★ | October 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com