Jazz, opera and paleontology correspondent Stuart Macbeth finds the New Theatre Oxford's production of Dinosaur Zoo a monstrous triumph!

I’ve tried many ways to make myself comfortable at the New Theatre’s seats but it never occurred to me to sit down head first with my legs sticking up. This is the immediate response of my four year old son Louis who’d never been to the theatre before today and, much like his father, doesn’t really know how to behave.

We’re here to see Dinosaur Zoo, a touring show by Australian company Erth who use expertly-controlled puppets to bring dinosaurs to life on stage. The show’s creator Scott Wright promises no experience quite like it - and it’s the perfect subject for introducing ages three and up to live theatre. The mere fact the show is a sensible fifty minutes in length is proof of Erth’s experience of entertaining little people.

Louis and I have both been for a wee anyway, in case it gets too scary. We’ve even armed ourselves with a couple of excellent Dinosaur Explorer Packs from the foyer (sweets, glow stick, bottled mineral water and a couple of Megalosaurus colouring sheets to carry on the fun when you get home) that complement the Dinosaur Explorer outfit our presenter Lindsey bounces on to the stage with. First up are a pair of baby dinosaurs who get a huge cheer, with Lindsey throwing in education asides for the less soppy among us. There’s plenty of audience participation, which falls just the right side of pantomime – apart from the obligatory bit where they humiliate one of the Dads in the audience. On this occasion it’s a chap called Andrew who’s a much better sport than I’d be if under attack from a man wielding a prehistoric puppet.

Louis is thoroughly enjoying all of this of course. But I sense he’s not the only child growing impatient for the really BIG dinosaurs to emerge – and after about 10 minutes they do. Again it’s perfectly timed for this age group.

These being Southern Hemisphere dinosaurs be warned – there is no T Rex in the show. But they do have the bigger, toothier Antipodean equivalent – a dinosaur whose name I can’t remember. And this dinosaur is particularly vicious this afternoon because, inevitably, they’ve forgotten to feed him. One of the children up front is invited to stick their head in the dinosaur’s mouth and like a fool, complies. Sensing this is probably as scary as it gets I ask my son if he’d prefer to sit in my lap. To this he replies “no Daddy, because then that dinosaur might see me, and then he might try to …. lick me”.

The action concludes with a Giganotosaurus looming in the wings. You don’t really get much bigger than that – but the meet and greet session with dinosaurs in the foyer afterwards is a nice add on for those who can stand the additional pushing and shoving.

If your children really, really love dinosaurs they will love this show. Erth push their chosen genre to its limits and only once did my child, not really grasping the idea of the theatre, ask if I could change the channel. I asked him to sum up what he liked most about it and he said “the really big dinosaurs”.

And for all I know there may even be a smile building underneath that Spider Man mask.