We got half-term off to a cultured start with a visit to a performance of Raymond Briggs’ The Bear, which is currently touring (see dates and locations below).
Briggs is perhaps best known for The Snowman and Fungus the Bogeyman.
As we took our seats, the actor playing Tilly joined the audience and introduced her teddy to the kids. We were seated right at the front of the small theatre, which I love as it brings us really close to the action on stage.
“That teddy bear is going to turn into a polar bear when it turns to life”, Kitty informed a lady sitting in front of us, she was nearly right.
The stage was dressed as a child’s bedroom, with a sign reading ‘Tilly’s band’ hanging from the keyboard stand.
The small cast were actors, singers, dancers, puppeteers and stage hands… skilfully rearranging props in character in a graceful, funny, choreographed routine. Clever multi-purpose props were transformed from bed to bath, chair to toilet, window to cupboard.
As Tilly slept, a shadow appeared at her window…that shadow became a huge polar bear.
The puppet, which has often been compared to the puppet in War Horse, needs two people to make it come alive….Tilly’s parents operate the puppet, one the head, the other the feet. The body is a series of circles covered with white feathers, which give it an appearance of soft downy fur.
‘Hello Bear’ says Tilly with childish wonder when she awakes to find the beast in her room.
Tilly believes in The Bear and so do the audience. At one stage the puppet is not on stage, but ‘Dad’ is still The Bear and we still believe he is a polar bear.
Before Christmas Kitty and I were lucky enough to see the wonderful Snowman ballet on stage at the Peacock Theatre in London, and the plot of the The Bear, by the same author contains similarities. A child awakes to find a mysterious and mischievous companion and they spend a day or a night in a world of adventure and imagination.
Things turn sour when The Bear trashes the house and Tilly scolds him and sends him upstairs, I glanced at Kitty and she squeezed my hand, as we both appreciated the role reversal.
At the end the stage becomes an arctic wonderland thanks to more clever use of props. ‘Wow that’s so amazing’ said Kitty. A baby polar bear appeared and ‘snow’, wet bubbly snow, descended from the roof onto our heads.
Raymond Briggs’ stories are so visual, they are perfect for the stage and screen. The children loved the magical story, and whilst the singing wasn’t X-factor winner standard the sense of wonder and fun was great.
The Bear was produced by Pins and Needles Productions, and we saw it as part of Full House Productions’ Luton’s Feb Fest, see website for other shows and activities in Luton during February half-term 2017.
Feb 18 – 19 : Bristol Old Vic Theatre
Feb 22 : Berwick Maltings
Feb 24-26 : Warwick Arts Centre
March 11 : Blackwood Miner’s Institute
March 12 : Brewhouse Taunton
What have you been upto this half-term ? I would love to hear your stories and tips.