When it comes to festive icons – Raymond Briggs has the market nailed – with The Snowman and Father Christmas being firm seasonal favourites. One I’m less familiar with though is the story of The Bear. This winter, The Bear, based on the book by Raymond Briggs and adapted for stage by Pins & Needles hits Waterside and we went along to watch on Thursday night.
To say I’m less familiar with the story is something of an understatement. I’d never actually read the book before and didn’t really know much beyond the synopsis:
One night a great big, white polar comes to stay with Tilly. The bear’s got black hooked claws and huge yellow teeth; but his white furry coat is warm and soft and Tilly decides he’s the cuddliest thing in the whole world. Tilly soon finds out that a big bear can cause big problems – he takes a LOT of looking after! But when she describes the bear’s latest antics to her parents they think he’s a figment of her imagination – but is he?
I actually quite liked not knowing the story beforehand, but of course that does mean it is a little tricky for me to compare the stage show to the book for you! What I can tell you though is that The Bear on stage is mesmerising. The music is beautiful, the puppetry magical and the performance as a whole just breath-taking.
At just shy of an hour long with no “stopper” as Amy calls it, The Bear makes for a great first show for young theatre goers. I had worried that Amy might actually be a little frightened of the enormous Bear puppet when he first made an appearance – his size combined with his growls gave him quite a significant presence on stage however I think the fact that Tilly (the main character in this tale) wasn’t frightened of him made it ok for the younger members of the audience.
Whilst the picture book itself is obviously aimed at younger readers, and as such you would expect the play to be too – it is described as being appropriate for children from age 3-11 and I would have to agree. Ben, at 8.5yrs old, was so absorbed in what was going on on stage that he admitted to shedding a tear when the Bear left towards the end of the story. (I told him that was a massive compliment to the acting too!)
The Bear runs at Waterside until the 6th of January and tickets are available now. You can even pre-order a Slumber Pack for £2 containing a carton of milk & a cookie – this was a lovely bonus for the kids and I was quite envious of their little snack!