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Michelle Brasier’s Average Bear at the Soho Theatre

Average, the bear, is nervous about going into hibernation, but we are all there to celebrate the great event. Michelle Brasier’s standup routine turn gig comedy turn monologue is a fascinating self-exploratory response to grief and pain.

Michelle Brasier’s Average BearAverage’s pre-hibernation drinks are a big deal, but her friends haven’t turned up, instead, we have a human entertainer, who is Michelle Brasier, playing herself. Brasier comes on stage and starts to sing about who she is and what she does. Very self-awarely keen to demonstrate that she went to drama school, the piece weaves through her life, mostly through song. It starts with a simpler comedy, fueled by strangely placed nostalgia and cringe comedy about being young. But after being advised to take a year out of drama school to get ‘life experience’ Michelle’s life takes many challenging turns. Ripe out of recovery from third-degree burns and a month spent motionless, Michelle learns that her father has a week to live, and has been struck by an aggressive inherited form of cancer.

After losing family members, Michelle looks at her mortality. This all seems rather heavy material, and it is, but the piece is consistently hilarious, Brasier has an absolute hold on the audience and is extremely dexterous in shifting tone and mood all while maintaining a polished routine. Within the comedy of this piece is a fascinating exploration of what it is to use comedy as a coping mechanism. There are hints that the character and maybe the performer do this because they need to and don’t know how to cope otherwise. How true this is I don’t know, but it deftly adds a complex interesting new layer.

The music in this piece is the dramaturgical metre. And Brasier along with her partner writes fun, witty tracks that enable the wide-ranging emotions that fly around in this piece and provide a convenient cover for me to cry. Often I wonder if people put in songs to this kind of piece because they are stuck, but this gig-comedy-theatre approach blends well each form going to different places.

The writing is obsessively witty, sharp and self-referential, to great effect. It is a shame, however, that at the end of the show, we are told what the point of the show is, maybe not the point, but it gets quite prescriptive. I am always a fan of shows with frayed endings that don’t get tied up, and this show wraps up a bit too comfortably.

Average Bear is an interesting piece that doesn’t fit into any one category, but that gives it so much flexibility which is used to great effect. Hilarious, moving and deeply personal this show is definitely worth catching.

4 stars

Review by Tom Carter

Average Bear sheds light on Michelle’s personal experience living in the shadows of an hereditary illness, whilst simultaneously weaving in the fictional story of Average, a bear with a problematic fear of hibernation. Heartbreaking and hilarious, Average Bear yo-yos between grief and joy whilst reminding audiences that life is too short to be serious and to waste.

Mon 6 – Sat 11 Mar 2023

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