So this year social distancing is in, and theatre adapts - a drive-in theatre is one of these adaptations. I was invited to the press viewing of Dinosaur World Live this year and was intrigued to find out it was at the Drive-In London, a drive-in cinema but which now doubles up as a theatre stage. I was slightly concerned that the magic of live theatre could not be translated into a massive car parking lot with a screen but figured it would be worth a try.
What was The Drive In theatre experience like?
So this year Dinosaur world Live is a drive-in experience - that means you drive up to the location, show your ticket and get directed to a parking slot. There are two levels to the tickets, premium (the first three rows) and standard (all the rest).
The show is live, with puppetry. Depending on how far away you are from the stage, you will watch it either mostly on the screen or possibly at the stage. We arrived fairly late and had standard tickets, so were parked in the last rows. The parking lot was about half full, so we were in the middle of the parking lot. From here we could see the biggest dinosaur puppets live on stage, but the smaller puppets we had to watch on the screen.
The sound come through on your car FM radio - you get a certain radio frequency to tune to to hear the live show. Worked well, and the sound was clear, even if our kids managed to annoyingly un-tune it mid-way through the show.
You can order food, drinks and snacks to your car - you order these online and the attendant brings it to your car. There are toilets available too.
Interestingly - you can attend The Drive In without a car! Buy the car-free bay ticket, and ride, bike or walk to the location. Either bring your own FM radio and seating, or you can hire a radio and camping chairs.
Overall, the venue worked really well, and I'd quite like to go back for a cinema too!
What was the show like as a drive-in version?
I've previously reviewed the show last year, and overall enjoyed it. This year the show was the same as last years, with some updates to make it fit the drive-in theatre experience and watching it (mostly) on the screen and in your cars.
As last year, I think the show is best for young kids, probably under nine years of age. Older than that will likely find the humour and the interaction a bit babyish. The show is not scary so it is suitable for young kids, and our two year old loved it.
The puppets are amazing but this time you may have to rely a lot on the screen, rather than seeing them "in flesh" so to speak. The bigger dinosaurs are easily viewable from a distance, but the little ones not so if you are parked further away from the stage. This show is filmed and uses the screen very well, and there are added small facts about the dinosaurs on screen.
The show is very interactive. Last year in theatre the actors encouraged kids to shout out - this time to honk car horns. It is good fun, even if very noisy and a bit chaotic with kids!
I do find that the show may have missed a bit of a trick by not having some of the smaller one-man dinosaurs "run" through the parked cars. You could easily leave a good path through the cars (as you are directed to bays rather than left to find your own) and then people at the back could see the puppetry at close too. And you could make it a fun part of the show, of an escapee dinosaur and announce that people must stay in their cars for safety. Well, who knows, maybe it was discounted for safety or practical reasons, but I do think it would add some extra to the show.
Overall though, a fun show and kids loved it, and especially the last little surprise at the exit gates...
Tips for attending
- Arrive early for best bays - up to 45 minutes earlier, and there is entertainment such as car karaoke and quizzes to keep you entertained until then.
- When leaving, check which exits have a baby dinosaur! It may take a bit of time for them to make their appearance, but they provide good distraction while queueing to get out of the venue.
- There are toilets available
- There is also food, drinks and snacks available, and very easy as they are brought to your car!
So if you fancy a drive-in theatre experience, Dinosaur World Live is on at:
7-30August in London, The Drive In at Troubadour Meridian Water
20-21 August in Newcastle, Virgin Money Unity Arena
Costs £40 (standard) / £60 (premium) per car.
Would you go to a drive in theatre yourself?
You might also like: Our day with the dinosaurs: Dinosaur World Live!