When BBC Earth’s Steve Backshall first appeared in the aisle of Her Majesty’s Theatre, draped in a thick and slithering olive python, the instinctual response was to recoil from a mix of horror and disgust.
As he wandered past the crowd, though, and onto the stage, joking and toying with his serpent companion, your fear was transformed into curiosity and then eventually endearment.
While the title of Steve’s hit wildlife documentary series ‘Deadly 60’ may suggest otherwise, the British biologist’s purpose is not to scare, but to make aware. By freeing his audiences of their fear, he hopes to liberate his beloved creatures from the consequences of fear. By tailoring his message to children, he hopes to inspire generational changes in attitudes towards conservation and climate change.
This motivation, though, is clothed in light-hearted, family friendly entertainment. Steve interspersed footage from his show, projected on a crisp cinema screen, with audience interaction and special animal guests.
While the show was touted as featuring some of Australia’s deadliest animals on stage, there were both legal and ethical limitations upon how wild things became. Volunteers from Animals Anonymous carefully escorted spiders, centipedes, goannas and baby crocodiles onto the stage.
While part of me secretly hoped to see a wedge-tailed eagle soaring high up into the cheap seats or a six-metre crocodile lashing and snapping at the front row, I had to grudgingly accept that a life-sized replica of the latter was the best that Steve could do. While he perhaps lacks the child-like enthusiasm of the late Steve Irwin, Steve Backshall is a worthy successor to the Crocodile Hunter.
With his profound knowledge, Steve is more of an amalgam of Irwin and Attenborough; part risk taker, part storyteller. He needs to work on his catchphrases though. “Crumbs” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Crikey”; may I suggest “Blimey”?