Jurassic Park in Concert – Live Review – Hull Bonus Arena
By Michael Davidson, December 2018
There’s a scene in Jurassic Park where the character of John Hammond (played by the late Richard Attenborough) sombrely recollects a ‘flea circus’ he once created. Despite the components being mechanised people allowed themselves to become lost in the illusion. While this scene is actually quite a dark, fanatical moment of attempted self-absolution, it got me thinking about cinema, an illusion that we too become lost in.
The story, in brief, follows Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Saddler (Laura Dern), recruited by Hammond as experts in their respective fields to offer their professional endorsement on an unopened theme park after a recent tragedy caused valid concerns amongst the attraction’s investors. Enter, Murphy’s Law.
I have seen Jurassic Park countless times since its original release in 1993 – on the big screen and on the small screen, on video, DVD and blu-ray, in 2D and 3D, indoors and outside. I’ve read the script, the novel and listened to the audiobook. I even once had the privilege to construct the film from traditional reels during my time as a projectionist. In my opinion, the film perfectly encapsulates ‘the illusion’ of cinema. We know we are watching a fiction but we’re engrossed all the same. A considerable part of that immersion comes from John Williams’ iconic score, which like many of his cinematic works, is an integral part of the film’s identity.
While not immune to reinvention, experimentation and reoccurring trends (see the recent revival of 80s synth) instrumental scores have been a constant in cinema since pianists played along to the silent films of days gone. The importance of a good score cannot be understated and John Williams’ contribution to the medium is almost unparalleled.
With that in mind it was no surprise that when the Czech National Orchestra inside Hull Bonus Arena began to play ‘Journey to the Island’, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. The musicians were fascinating to watch and made hitting the various cues seem effortless. Perilous parts of the film really picked up pace as the string and horn sections kicked in. A soundtrack can sometimes be lost in the background but with this performance being live, the music had a much more notable presence and it was interesting to identify the scenes where the score was intentionally absent.
An arena isn’t the most intimate of venues but it was endearing to see the film draw an audience to merit such a setting 25 years on. The choice of seating was a little curious as when patrons stood up (which despite an interval, happened more frequently than you might expect), the chair mechanism would snap back sending an audible pop across the room. The flash photography and recording during the show was a little distracting too, but these are relatively minor gripes.
The audience were thoroughly engaged, laughing at the now infamous scene depicting a bandaged up Jeff Goldblum, open shirted, striking a pose worthy of a renascence oil painting and saluting the end of the performance with a standing ovation. I sometimes wonder if, with many contemporary summer blockbusters (including entries in the same franchise) being largely made up of vacuous set pieces void of substance, something as subtle as Alan Grant’s transformation from cynic to paternal figure, or the slow burn, philosophical first act would still hold a younger viewer’s attention. It was refreshing then to see younger members of the audience as transfixed as I was at that age.
It’s incredible that despite my familiarity with this classic, I’m still finding new things to love about it. I only recently discovered that the helicopter scene where Grant straps himself in by tying a double bracket seatbelt together is not only a demonstration of the practical and pragmatic nature of his character but also acts as a metaphor for the dinosaurs managing to breed in the park, despite all being engineered as female. Seeing it again, accompanied by a live orchestra, really elevated the experience and the show has become a welcome addition to my Jurassic Park hit list.