Paradise in the Vault – The Annexe
This is the story of a dinosaur impersonator called Terrence (Alex Zawalnyski). Terrence is a fully grown adult who has retained his childhood obsession with the ‘great lizards’ and is intent on forging a career around his passion. Surely it’s not much too ask, to pursue a simple dream of fame and fortune in a T-rex outfit? But Terrence is struggling with his life already: messy breakups, a handmade costume that has been made obsolete by contemporary scientific discovery, professional rivalry; they all conspire to complicate things. And it gets worse when he is forced to work with the annoying Sarah the Triceratops (Clara Wessely) who doesn’t even like dinosaurs!
Zawalnyski’s script is undoubtedly a bit bonkers, but in a really enjoyable way. It smartly contrasts the weirdness of Terrence’s obsessive, pedantic personality with the reality of his life problems, juxtaposing ridiculous situations and daft dinosaur jokes with the recognisable ordeals of adult relationships to great effect. The quirky characters, farcical scenarios (such as the Children’s Birthday Party Expo), slightly dodgy homespun props and costumes all comment self-referentially on the crapness of Terrence’s existence, yet cleverly sit just on the plausible side of credibility. Simultaneously, the story also raises some very valid themes about family, identity, self-value and ideas of success, explored as Terrence and Sarah are forced to work together. It offers perspective on celebrity status, how it can disguise someone’s true behaviour, and being achieved at the expense of others.
There are some absolutely magic moments in this production that raise upROARious laughter– I’m thinking particularly of the concept of a burlesque dinosaur show, which had the audience just rolling in the aisles. But even cheap dino puns and the fundamentals of the pair’s costumes cultivate a giggle and add value: Sarah’s stupid hat is the opposite extreme to Terrence’s carefully crafted, authentically represented T-rex headpiece (which would make great merch, incidentally!), and both speak volumes about the characters.
Both Zawalnski and Wessely are reassuringly convincing as Sarah and Terrence, their characterisation also balanced thoughtfully to be just believable, which is not easy to pull off given that they are dinosaur impersonators. We all know someone obsessively dorky like Terrence, and someone pragmatically realistic like Sarah. It’s a combination that plays well for laughs and emotional tension. It’s enjoyable to see the characters’ relationship develop as they learn to understand each other, and there are even a few quite touching moments, particularly as Terrence makes an effort to learn about Sarah’s awkward relationship with her father. I found it especially satisfying that the peculiar rom-com scenario they find themselves in is handled with suitable realism at the end.
Terrence the T-Rex is great fringe show, taking some very simple elements and a straightforward (if rather off the wall) story and cleverly crafting an hour of gentle comedy around them. It’s clearly written and performed with care, making it a great watch.
Written by: Alex Zawalnyski
Directed by: Harry Goodwin
Terrence the T-rex plays at EdFringe 2022 until 28 August. Fruther information and bookings here.