Before I Was A Bear – The Bunker, London

Writer: Eleanor Tindall

Director: Aneesha Srinivasan

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Intelligent writing and plotting ensure this engrossing tale around the power of sexuality and friendship does not come across as a preachy moralistic story, but one that celebrates both whilst marvelling at their respective power.

Cally used to be “Normal”. She grew up with great school-friends, she was obsessed with sex and a TV detective, she didn’t really know what she wanted from life and got a pub job in London. When she meets the hot (but married with kids) TV detective in her early 20s and starts an affair she discovers that men can actually be good in bed, that some friendships can be pushed to breaking point, and that sex can have an impact far greater than expected.

The play takes us through the course of a tight friendship, sexual awakening and modern interpersonal politics. It’s a note about reputation and how easy people find it to pass judgement on others (as in the dreaded comments section underneath news articles) without considering the human damage it may cause. It’s a smart commentary on shame and plumbs depths that require real thought and effort to open up to.

The turn comes when Cally is confronted by the wife of the hot TV detective, confronted by this idea of her sexuality causing pain. The wife’s gaze causes to be transformed into a bear. Furred skin, large heavy jaws, massive feet and clumsy hands – an actual bear. As an extended visual metaphor it’s an enjoyable one. As played by Jacoba Williams it’s captivating – wearing the bear costume throughout (without the head) she is funny, deadpan, aggressive and vulnerable.

Eleanor Tindall’s writing paints rich, appetising pictures with sparky economy of language. Nothing pretentious, gorgeous detail and slang. Aneesha Srinivasan’s direction keeps it moving, flowing around the stage like a dance. The overall effect is engaging, fun and wild – it’s powerful about the light and shade of sexual power, of relationships and trust. Big ideas for three plays, massive when combined into one.

Runs until 23 November 2019 | Image: Contributed

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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