Theatre Review: Steve Backshall

18th November 2016


If you’re ever face to face with a shark, give its nose a friendly little rub. No really. It’ll like it.

As the children in the audience sat gleefully and the adults slightly sceptically Steve Backshall, speaking live at the York Grand Opera House as part of his Wild World Tour promoting his Shark Seas book, went on to explain that the electrical sensors a shark possesses in its nose means that they like a stroke as much as my jack russell. You’re also more likely to be killed by a vending machine by the way. Or indeed be attacked by a terrier.

It’s not often I see my five year old sat in rapture, but for two hours he was welded to the seat as Backshall showed his audience of 700 or so not only that sharks are more than the unidimensional tabloid monster, but also the incredible adaptation of all animals to their environment.

Not that much of the sub-16 audience needed telling this. Every obscure animal projected had its name chirped back from the hive mind of Cub groups, eager eight year olds, and mini-zoologists quicker than you could google ‘Weird shark thing’. Ever heard of a Goblin Shark? No, well these lot have.

And while this was an exceptionally good ‘Show and Tell’, it was more than that too. If you become a wildlife presenter, naturalist, and adventure documentary maker it makes sense you might have an opinion on the state of nature too. Clips of finless sharks dying on the seabed is, it turns out, pretty common as 100 million sharks are killed each year for the infamous soup. Backshall is now the patron of Bite Back a UK charity campaigning to end the trade in shark meat throughout Britain in both restaurants and supermarkets. You could almost sense the petition’s numbers swell as the room saw the brutality.

While I may have had only a slim grasp of Backshall’s back catalogue before the show this tour through his oeuvre showed not only his eye popping enthusiasm for his work but skill in diving, canoe and climbing. As well as keeping cool when feeding sharks and they accidentally carry you away too. I’m not sure I’d still be commentating to the camera.

Any questions? Hundreds of hands strain to the sky.

- Dan Phillips

Steve Backshall Site
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