Manchester Theatre News & Reviews
REVIEW - We're Going On A Bear Hunt relishes the opportunity to allow children to dive right in and be totally immersed in the wonder of theatreBUY YOUR TICKETS HERE!
On Friday, we headed to The Lowry, Salford to see the family show, We're Going On A Bear Hunt. Read what our reviewer Karen Ryder had to say about this delightful production...
“What a beautiful day” it became after watching We’re Going On A Bear Hunt in the cosy Quays Theatre at The Lowry. The theatre was completely alive with the excitement, curiosity, and the wonderment of children, and to be honest, adults alike. This hard working, fun, and talented cast intrigued everyone from the off by entering from the back of the auditorium on their search for a bear, making everyone swivel round in their seats, and preparing us to always expect the unexpected. Audience participation, music, and a knowledge of how to engage children are at the heart of this show, meaning it is fast paced, zany, and just a little bit cheeky. The famous rhyme of We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is turned into a song, which is purposefully simple so that we can all quickly learn it and join in. The latter part of the rhyme “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to go…” and the end hangs in the air so that all the audience can shout it out and join in “through it!” This isn’t a show that expects its young audience to sit quietly in their seats passively watching. It relishes the opportunity to allow the children to dive right in and be totally immersed in the wonder of theatre. With this in mind, the show allows for numerous pantomime style approaches, including splitting the audience in half to sing different bits of the song, and the bear tapping someone’s shoulder but moving the other way so when the boy turns round, no one is there, and the children are screaming out “He’s behind you!!”
Of course, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is the insanely popular award winning children’s book by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. It tells the tale of a family who decide to go on a bear hunt, but they meet obstacles to overcome on route. They have to find a way to conquer long wavy grass, a deep cold river, thick oozy mud, a big dark forest, and a swirling, whirling snowstorm. They achieve all of this and finally enter a narrow gloomy cave and come face to face with a bear. Fear and panic rise, and the family run back through all the obstacles until they are home. They lock the door, shutting the bear out, and hide under their duvet declaring they are never going on bear hunt again! The repetitive rhymes, glorious descriptions, and hero’s journey have ensured this book is a staple in any household with children, and this was evident from todays audience.
Each of the obstacles was staged in a creative and engaging way, many of which could be recreated at home to continue the imagination and magical journey. The long wavy grass were swathes of green material hanging down from sticks of wood that the characters could weave in and out of. The deep cold river brought about the best kind of giddy hysteria as buckets of water were lined up, and the characters had to walk through them. But as I’ve said, this show likes to involve its audience, and so it wasn’t long before the water pistols and super soakers were out, with cast members running into the audience to make sure everyone got a piece of the watery action. Honestly, the laughter and squeals of delight from the children was priceless, and I truly hope the cast realised just how much joy they were bringing. The thick oozy mud was courtesy of brown paint, where the cast covered their hands and freestyled hand painting on large sheets of paper. But it wasn’t too long before their cheekiness emerged and they started painting each other, complete with hand prints on the derriere, which of course, the children loved! It was the best kind of organised chaos and so the children were in their element as it was all just a little bit mischievous. The big dark forest was easily represented by towers of cardboard boxes that the cast could run through, and then came the swirling whirling snowstorm. It was just magical. Lighting created falling snow throughout the entire theatre, the cast came on with white, swirling ribbons, and throwing glitter into the air, a vast white sheet covered the stage, and then……it snowed! Honestly, if you could bottle the reactions from the children, it would be a bottle of innocent wonderment and glee to open every time you felt a bit rubbish, and it would lift your spirit in a heartbeat.
This cast and creative team are quite simple children whisperers. They knew how to whisk them up into a frenzy of excitement, but equally, there was a moment when they sung a song “What A Beautiful Day,” and everything became serene, calm, with warm sunshine colours flooding the theatre, and I have never seen anything like it. The children all became zen! It was impressive to say the least. The music throughout was live, and a fabulous mix of instruments being introduced from a guitar to a kazoo to a harmonica.
The adaptation to stage has been directed by Sally Cookson, designed by Katie Sykes, with music composed by Benji Bower. Together, this creative team clearly understand children. They have used music to create atmosphere, allowing the children to feel content, scared, excited, and sleepy. The use of items that they can play with at home, school or nursery, and can indulge imagination is key to this production, and keeps it in the realm of our young audiences experiences, allowing them to accept it without question. Items such as buckets, towels, boxes, paint, and paper can easily be accessed, and reiterate the idea that children don’t need big fancy expensive items, they already have the biggest gift of all in their unfiltered and uninhibited imaginations.
Tim Hibberd played the dad and was not only funny in the eyes of the children, but to us grown ups too with his off the cuff and witty ad libs. His performance felt like a fluffy warm hug, and with an instant likeability he created a safe and stable environment for the children to relax and enjoy the show. Neha Eapen was the girl and was funny, quirky, and created some brilliant physical movement and shapes that had the children rip roaring with laughter. Her facial expressions were engaging and told a thousand tales. Benedict Hastings as the boy brings a cheeky charm, and a little bit of mischief. He connected instantly with the children’s humour and could reduce them to hilarity with a wiggle of his bootie in an instant. Benjamin Hills was not only the dog but provided the majority of the music too. Full of endless energy, he bounded across the stage as the dog much to the delight of the audience, and equally calmed them with the power of music.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is a show with children as its beating heart. And I will happily confess that I initially went with my adult mind whirring with all the other things I could be doing in this hour rather than watching a children’s show, BUT I was wrong! So wrong! It completely won me over, and so I now say this show is not just for children. It is for anyone who wants to feel happiness, who wants to remember and reignite their carefree world, and who wants to marvel in the untouched and unspoilt magic of being a child. It was truly a tonic, and I would go again and invite all the children in my world to join me in a heartbeat.
WE SCORE WE'RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT...
We're Going On A Bear Hunt is on at The Lowry, Salford until Sunday 7th January 2023.
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