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Before I Was a Bear

“Gorgeous and thrillingly weird”

Cally is a bear. You can tell because she comes on stage in a head-to-toe bear suit and dances enthusiastically to Katy B. When she takes off the bear head and pops it over a red light, which glows unnervingly through the eyeholes, she stays in the suit. She is, uncompromisingly, a bear. But it wasn’t always like this.

This is the set-up for Eleanor Tindall’s gorgeous, hilarious, thrillingly weird one-woman play (Jacoba Williams, glowing and charismatic). Cally tells the story of her adolescence and young adulthood, flagging up important characters like any considerate raconteur: Jonathan Bolt, a heartthrob actor playing a TV detective that teenage Cally crushes on hard; Leah, a school friend; Carla, another school friend with whom Cally has complex emotional and sexual ties.

Tindall’s play has the energy of a stand-up comedy set and the brutal power of a confession. Though Cally’s descriptions of puberty, desire, flat-sharing and female friendships are all incredibly funny, immense pain and love thrum through every anecdote. But when Cally meets the famous Bolt in a pub and succumbs to his charms, things take a darker, harder turn.

Spliced into Aneesha Srinivasan’s production are a number of strange sequences in which Cally is entirely bear, struggling under murky soundscapes and chiaroscuro lighting: wordless, fumbling and violent.

It is abundantly obvious that the bear is a metaphor – for depression, for loneliness – but the boldness of it, the sheer crazy Kafkaesque fact that Tindall presents it as this massive, clumsy metamorphosis, adds an exhilarating sense of surrealism. This is addictive watching.

Production Details
Production nameBefore I Was a Bear
VenueThe Bunker
StartsNovember 12, 2019
EndsNovember 23, 2019
Running time1hr 10mins
AuthorEleanor Tindall
DirectorAneesha Srinivasan
Set designerGrace Venning
Lighting designerMartha Godfrey
CastJacoba Williams
ProducerSalome Wagaine
VerdictGorgeous, sparkling and deliciously weird comedy packs serious emotional weight
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