Based on the much loved picture book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt settles into the daytime slots at the Lyric in Shaftesbury Avenue this month, while Thriller continues its night moonwalk.
Padding out the five minute read-out-loud story to a 55 minute stage piece nicely, director Sally Cookson has created a lovely little show that can be enjoyed by adults just as well as kiddies. Using panto devices, everyday props, and a make do and mend music vibe (courtesy of Benji Bower), Bear Hunt is sweet, touching, silly, full of vim and very British in its eccentricity.
There’s Dad (played by Duncan Foster who created the role and, according to the press release ‘is aiming to surpass Yule Bryner’s 4,600 performances in The King and I), his two young kids (played by adults Gareth Warren and Rowena Lennon), and Buddy the dog (Ben Harrison). There’s also a very convincing cloth puppet baby who appears at the beginning and end of the show, but who spends the strenuous middle having a big baby nap in a cardboard box.
Their adventure takes them through (never under, never over, oh no!) a forest, a river, mud, and snow and on the way they, and we, get a little wet thanks to water pistols and an absolutely magical snowstorm which fills the theatre with little faces lighting up, and an awful smell of washing-up liquid!
Buddy the dog bounds around in dungarees, a flying ace’s hat forming his floppy ears, and with a pair of bottle glasses bouncing up and down on his face like a pair of wobbly tits. Sometimes he’s part of the adventure – rolling around in poo, which the youngsters adored – and sometimes he bounds off to the side of the stage to his one-man-band music kit where he plays the kazoo and bashes on the basic percussion instruments.
Do we get to see the bear? We sure do, and he’s as far away from grrrrrrr as you can imagine, running onto the stage to Keystone Cops-style piano tinkling, while the kids in the audience shout wild and heartfelt warnings to the characters they know and love.
The music is catchy, the simple visuals work well, the characters are loveable and the special effects work. There’s not much else you could ask for in a kids’ show than that. Highly recommended for both little’uns and big’uns.
What: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Where: Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London
When: Until Sept 2013, 11pm & 2pm on various days
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