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The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy at Jack Studio Theatre

The Apocalypse Bear (Remi King) of the show’s title introduces himself as such, and everybody seems to take it for granted, with no questions about why he’s called that. There are, as the play’s name suggests, three acts to this story that is simultaneously mundane and bizarre. In the first, ‘The Fag from Zagreb’, Jeremy (Gassan Abdulrazek), a schoolboy, comes home from school, to find the Bear in the kitchen. But Jeremy has things he wants to get on with, and after all, this is London, and all sorts of odd occurrences and unusual sights happen regularly.

The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy at Jack Studio Theatre.In the second, ‘Back to the Cafeteria’, Sonya (Siddy Holloway) appears to be living in the past as well as in the present: she talks about certain classmates who are cooler than her, but the Bear asks after her husband. This made me wonder, momentarily, if the setting was a postgraduate degree programme rather than a secondary school, though in the end, that turned out to be a moot point, in a story about (as far as I could make out) a personal quest on Sonya’s part to discover what parts of her history she has either forgotten about, or otherwise never discovered.

The third part, ‘Into the Woods’, sees Jeremy and Sonya (or is Sonya and Jeremy?) living together as a couple, though bafflingly they refer to each other as ‘twins’ more than once. They do not argue – their dialogue explains they once did, regularly, but have now settled down and understand one another better. The Bear doesn’t reappear until the final moments of the scene, and then only briefly, benignly asking Sonya why she’s stood outside her house in the early hours of the morning, and then offering if there is anything she’d like from the local supermarket, presumably a 24-hour one.

At face value, the show makes little sense, particularly if any time at all is spent wondering why the Bear, who lives in the woods but is also able to make Jeremy a sandwich in the first act. As if to balance things out, in the second, there’s a mildly amusing moment in which the Bear, with a bear’s hands, struggles to get a plastic straw into a juice carton, And in the third, I had a moment of pure jealousy: the couple have weekly refuse collections, which allows them to even have a discussion about whose turn it is to ensure the rubbish is put out.

There’s more than the usual amount of suspension of disbelief in a show that focuses on the fears and uncertainties of modern living. People, the play appears to assert, react too strongly to events they can do little if anything about. There’s Jeremy’s online friend in the first act, whose actions the youngster could hardly be responsible for, especially as he’s in another country. There’s Sonya’s nightmare in the third act, which she recalls in vivid detail.

The set (Georgie White) has a lot of white – white tables, chairs and cubby holes – whilst a double bed, complete with pillows and sheets, materialises far more quickly than one might reasonably expect. Remi King’s Bear displays a wide range of emotions, which is quite an achievement when in an all-encompassing costume for the duration of the performance. I thought we might catch a glimpse of the actor’s face at curtain call, but fair play to him for keeping the whole bear suit on to the very end.

The script is very nuanced although its delivery in this production wasn’t as gripping as it could be – there is something raw and perhaps poignant that is, I think, meant to be drawn out from these everyday scenarios with a surrealist twist. Oh, and if Benjamin Peterson’s Postman doesn’t do much more than, well, deliver post, he’s doing more than postal workers in my area have been for some time. A pleasant experience thanks to a committed cast, I can’t escape the feeling I was meant to feel challenged and thought-provoked rather than coming away merely thinking the show was eccentric but nice.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

When Jeremy comes home from school one day, there’s a surprise visitor waiting for him. He’s there in Sonya’s new middle-school cafeteria as well. A fuzzy, friendly face from the woods beyond; a half-remembered dream of childhood.

The Apocalypse Bear has come to visit.

He’s here to talk and to listen. He’s here for fun and for care. He’s here to play and to pretend.

He’s here to show you who you really, truly are.

The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy
by Lally Katz
directed by James Christensen
associate direction by Benjamin Peterson
presented by No Such Theatre
produced by Carrie Croft

Tuesday 11 – Saturday 22 July 2023
https://brockleyjack.co.uk/

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