Adaptor: Sally Cookson, from the book by Michael Rosen
Music and Lyrics: Benji Bower
Director: Sally Cookson
Reviewer: Christopher Owen
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is one of the most loved children’s books in the country, and in this stage adaptation is sure to be one of the family hits of the summer. Full of original music, colourful props and inventive stage play, the loveable cast bring to life the family, dog, and adorably cute baby (a genuinely brilliant puppet) in this delightfully simple yet highly effective adaptation.
Applying enough original dialogue to such a well known text, the show expands what is usually a seven (or so) minute book, into a neat fifty five minute show, captivating both the children and adults in the audience from the first word. Using the elements of each section of the book (grass, river, mud, snow) and turning them into bold, visually satisfying actions (large fabric grass, buckets of water which splash the audience, large boards used as hand painting easels, and a full audience covering snowstorm) means that the very young are just as entertained and mesmerised as the older children.
Each performer onstage is bright eyed and energetic, not ever patronising to the young crowd assembled in front of them, and show their engagement and attentiveness to great effect in the many audience participative scenes while always staying in character; be this question and answers, a simple hello and wave, or gaining the audience’s help in a sing along. The music is a mix of pre recorded and live, with performer Ben Harrison doubling up as the Dog and the on stage musician, handling a variety of percussive instruments, and also playing guitar almost throughout. This brings the familiar story to a whole new life and gives it that fresh edge which a less successful production would have overlooked.
Sally Cookson’s excellent fluid direction keeps its eye on the bear hunt story just enough while still focussing on giggles and fun, and when the hunt comes to its bear filled climax, makes sure it is more of a fun and exciting one, than a scary and intimidating one for the toddlers present.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is a perfect family show for the summer, and shows that children’s theatre is not only booming in the UK at the moment, but is clever, satisfying and very entertaining. And with the majority of tickets at easily less than £20 is fantastic value for the whole family and a perfect first show if your child has not had a theatre visit yet.