DramaLGBTQNorth East & YorkshireReview

Dancing Bear – West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Writer: Beccy Owen

Music: Jamie Fletcher, Ric Neale and Beccy Owen

Director: Jamie Fletcher

Choreographer:Eleni Edipidi

Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood

This preview of Dancing Bear is a crucial piece in the continuous development of the show as the company is planning to tour this production nationally and internationally next year. This preview coincides with the LGBT History Month and is part of West Yorkshire’s Development Programme, Furnace.

The cast welcomed the audience and encouragement was provided, the message – being free and not to be convinced or converted. The cast, doubling up as performers/musicians, came from diverse backgrounds, introduced themselves and relayed their fears and feelings.

The Club on the Edge of Town, a musical number, was about Divina De Campo (Owen Farrow) who engaged with everyone, through drag, his journey about coming out, breaking free and being reborn. With song and dance, he colourfully shared his spiritual awakening.

Half way through the show, the director shared his personal journey. The balance of gender, sexuality and faith were explored and he explained how his life experiences enabled him not to compromise his integrity and spirituality.

There were some thought-provoking and powerful spiritual settings. The audience was drawn to think further about the relationship between sexuality and faith and the impact it has on gay people and society in general. Following on from today’s current affairs; homosexuality and gay marriages and its relationship with the church and media were explored. This included the basis how one observes the world people live in, the words people go by and the emotional and psychological weight people carry.

As well as poignancy and provocation, there was some humour thrown in with a dancing bear in costume (Andrew Gardiner) which lightened the mood. This suggested one being natural in what they feel in order to follow their orientation and beliefs. The talented cast of musicians and singers, accompanied by a live band, sang and narrated songs and text that cover a diverse range of themes including love, hope and peace, linking to humanity and spirituality.

The quote “I’m a Lonesome Dancing Bear” summed up the loneliness and challenges many in the LGBT community face. This brave thought provoking and beautiful production offers opportunities to each one and all, regardless of sexual orientation or religious belief, to find one’s inner peace and spirituality. No conclusions should not be drawn, but instead, celebrate the people’s uniqueness and diversity of this world.

Dancing Bear is an excellent production raising the crucial themes which will sure develop from strength to strength on a future tour.

Reviewed on 10 February 2016 | Image: Contributed

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