ChildrensFamilyReviewSouth West

The Bear – Bristol Old Vic, Bristol

 Director: Emma Earle &Hal Chambers

Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts

After their recent success with Father Christmas, Pins and Needles Productions bring their take on another Raymond Briggs classic to Bristol Old Vic Theatre and it does not disappoint. From catchy songs to magical puppetry The Bear has it all as it leaps from page to stage.

The Bear follows the story of Tilly, played by Lily Donovan, a little girl that loves to sing and dance with her favourite Teddy. Tilly has a very vivid imagination, so when she informs Mum and Dad, played by Fiona Putnam and Stephen Harper that a bear has moved into her bedroom, they’re not as surprised as you might expect them to be. What ensues is one very little girl trying to keep one very giant bear happy.

From bath times to hunting for honey in the kitchen things never quite go as Tilly expects them to, and it turns out that cleaning up polar bear poo from the carpet isn’t quite as fun as Tilly thought it was going to be. Performed against the backdrop of Zoe Squire’s beautifully designed suburban home, the cleverly designed set looks like something straight out of a Briggs picture book. But still adds a sense of reality to what it would be like to have a giant polar bear tumbling round a little house.

The bear itself brought to life by Samuel Wyer’s designs, a huge puppet made up of concertinaing rings of white fur and a beautifully expressive face. 2 feet move separately from the body, Putnam and Harper taking turns to control them. Finn Caldwell’s puppet direction perfectly captures the lolloping, grunting movement of the bear.  So much so that at times you really feel as though you are watching a giant polar bear gallop through the snow.

Flitting between humour filled present day and eerily beautiful dream sequences, Lucy Rivers compositions transform suburban life into to night skies and the icy North Pole. There were unfortunately a couple of issues with sound, but this did not distract from the story or the audience’s enjoyment. With humour and visual gags keeping all ages of the audience laughing along throughout.

This brilliantly warm production has love and family at its core, with endless enjoyment for little ones and big ones alike.

 Runs until 19 February 2017 and then on tour | Image: Contributed

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. 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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