bear hunt cast

We’re going on a bear hunt

Birmingham Town Hall

****

WHAT a delightful piece of whimsy to brighten the dark days of winter and provide a charming, entertaining Christmas treat for youngsters.

Adapted from Michael Rosen’s much loved story, director Sally Cookson and designer Katie Sykes have avoided the temptation to make the stage version merely an animated book and turned it into an interactive play.

Mark Peachy as the dad, who we find can’t swim incidentally, Rachel Gay as the girl and David Shute as the boy, not only arrive through the audience, but the boy and girl move among the kids first asking for words to describe bears and second, perhaps a little less intellectually challenging, but probably more fun, to spray everyone with water.

Then there is Niall Kerrygan as the dog who is also the musician playing guitar, accordion, drums and melodica. As a dog, to the obvious delight of the youngsters in the audience, he also enjoys rolling in bear poo. Children and poo are a marriage made in heaven when it comes to guaranteed laughs.

The cast keep to the basic story but mix in songs and play around the trials faced in searching for a fierce, large bear, with sharp teeth and big claws – although when he, or she . . . let us not make assumptions here . . . . when the bear does appear he, or she, appears rather friendly and gets cheers of his/her own when it comes to the curtain call.

It’s all very simple and very effective. The long grass, for example, was rather like a green version of one of those plastic strip fly screens you find in doorways to kitchens and storerooms in Greek tavernas, while the river was a line of blue buckets, suitably filled with water, the water and river becoming a shared experience with the audience.

Snow was lights and ribbons on sticks weaving hypnotising patters while mud was gloopy red paint squirted into a washing up bowl and used to make handprints . . . everywhere. Kids love slapstick almost as much as any mention of poo so laughed happily as the cast daubed paid on each other in a don’t try this at home . . . or else! . . . interlude

The result was a lively, retelling of a familiar story which almost every child already knew from the responses. The cast were full of infectious enthusiasm, carrying their young audience along with them, the music simple, yet more sophisticated than man children’s shows and the audience went home happy and smiling, so job done. Theatre needs shows like this to hook the next generation of theatregoers. It’s fun, fast paced, inventive and treats children as young adults. And they loved it. To 13-01-12.

Roger Clarke

22-12-15 

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