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Ray Mears: Tales of Endurance – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Matthew Forrest

Ray Mears has been on television for well over two decades, providing handy survival tips and showing us how to get out of some pretty sticky situations. He’s tracked bears and wolves to name but a few of his many outstanding accomplishments. Anyone expecting a survival guide on his latest tour had better think again. Ray Mears – Tales of Endurance is a collection of Mears’ favourite stories of outstanding bravery and the will to survive.

The opening tale is one of bad luck, bad planning, but also the determination to survive: It is the story of The Hubbard Expedition – an ill-fated expedition to explore the rough terrain of Labrador in Canada. This sees Mears on familiar territory, as he goes through the logistics of the journey, and why it was doomed to fail. However what is abundantly apparent is Mears, isn’t vilifying these men for the failed attempt, more in awe of their determination to carry on going.

It is then the show takes a different path, with two separate stories of survival during World War 2. The second story is the heroic tale of a band British POW’s fleeing one of the many Japanese concentration camps, involved in the construction of the Burma railway. This is truly an outstanding tale of courage, determination, but most of all forgiveness: a hugely inspirational story and one that everyone should hear.

Mears may be more at home in the wilderness, than talking in a huge theatre, but you would never know it: his delivery is confident, without being impassioned. The admiration and affection for his subject matter is always apparent, however, his delivery is very ‘matter of fact’ and informative, rather than ‘showy’. The final tale again is from World War 2, that of Violette Szabo, a British spy caught behind enemy lines. A truly remarkable story that, even the finest Hollywood scripter writers couldn’t conjure up. Mears knowledge of his subjects captivates and enthrals in equal measure.

Despite the subject matter, the show has a touch of humour, mainly in the guise of a Q and A session, as we are invited to write some questions for Mears to tackle which he dutifully does. It takes a great deal of skill to hold an audience attention for two hours with nothing more than a few exceptional stories, a projector with a few still images and diagram but Mears, pulls it off, admirably. You could have spent two hours more in his company and wanted to learn more. Certainly worth catching and well worth a listen… and yes he did answer the age old question of drinking your own urine in a survival situation… despite what you may have heard, Ray Mears, says no, so I’ll take his word for it!

Reviewed: 13 March 2016

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