We’re Going on a Bear Hunt review at Duchess London
Apart from stage shows based around popular TV programmes or characters, there is nothing more effective than an adaptation of a bestselling picture-book for getting young children into theatres.
Michael Rosen’s We’re Going On a Bear Hunt is a perfect example. Though originally published back in 1989, this tale of a family’s search for a bear through ‘swishy swashy’ grass and the ‘squelch squerch’ of mud continues to be adored by new generations.
Indeed as dad (Duncan Foster), children (Garreth Warren, Victoria Andrews), dog (Bob Karper) and baby (played by a puppet) set off on their great adventure, it is not long before the youngsters present begin to join in with the repetition, rhythm and pace of Rosen’s language.
Sometimes fans of the book even shout out the words before the performers themselves have a chance to, but the cast are not fazed and regularly encourage audience interaction anyway. This is often achieved through Benji Bower’s infectious music, some of which is played onstage via instruments as varied as the spoons, kazoo and accordion. The way the piece allows children to use their imagination is also sweetly done, as everyday objects are used to suggest a river (blue buckets) or mud (brown paint).
During these scenes, the actors occasionally come out of character – starting a water pistol fight or having a singalong – encouraging the audience to see them as players acting out a story. For me, this is a slight flaw in what is generally a charming production, for too much self-referential humour threatens to undermine the magic of the tale being told.
Duchess, London, July 8-August 6
- Michael Rosen
- Sally Cookson
- Kenny Wax Ltd, Nick Brooke Ltd
- Duncan Foster, Garreth Warren, Victoria Andrews, Bob Karper
- Running time