We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a cheerful, entertaining, romp of a family show. Ten years after its first performance, it’s back in the West End at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.
Director Sally Cookson has created a super theatrical experience for young theatregoers. She skilfully recreates the much-loved world of Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. Their award-winning book of the same name was published in 1989 and has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. Suffice to say, it was a well-packed auditorium as my daughter and I took our seat for the press performance.
Cookson together with designer Katie Sykes uses everyday objects to capture the imagination of their young audience. ‘Splash splosh’ the cast walk through a river of buckets filled with shallow water; cardboard boxes stacked high represent trees in the ‘big, dark forest’ and a large white sheet covers the stage in a snowstorm. Like the lighting design by Tony Simpson, it is simple but highly effective and memorable.
The show features a cast of four actors Benjamin Hills (Dog/Musician), Rebecca Newman (Girl) and Thos Wainwright (Dad), Joey Hickman (Boy) and a sweet puppet baby designed by Marc Parrett.
The actors cavort around the stage with gusto. It’s a rough and tumble, energetic show which begins with the cast running through the auditorium and onto the stage. There’s expressive dance, bucket spinning on one finger, sloppy painting on large canvases, mismatched socks and a roaring growl of a bear which vibrates the seats in the auditorium. The show is rich in visual entertainment and is complemented by a charming score by Benji Bower. The show features live music performed by the Dog (Benjamin Hill) – drums, percussion, accordion, kazoo, guitar (I may even have missed some) – is there any end to Hills’ musical talents?
There are moments of calm and reflection amidst the frenetic activity. One, where the Girl (Rebecca Newman) makes paper butterflies is particularly charming. She asks if anyone in the audience would like one. A little hand shoots out in front and is sweetly given the butterfly. Children love this sort of thing and there is plenty of audience interaction in the show. Questions are shouted out and opinions garnered, super soakers are brought on stage to ensure the far reaches of the audience are showered in water, there’s a sing-a-long and best of all, for audience glee, there is a snowstorm. Cue plenty of squeals of delight. As a theatremaker for young children, could Sally Cookson and her team hope to hear anything better?
The show runs at a brisk 55 minutes and is suitable for pre and primary school children. Officially, the suggested minimum age is 3+ but younger children are welcome. My daughter is one and three quarters and was perfectly entertained and well behaved. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a delightfully funny, playful, curious and warm show. I highly recommend you see it before it closes on 2nd September 2018.
Review by Laura-Jane Foley
The smash-hit production of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt returns vividly and noisily to the West End stage in director Sally Cookson’s fun-filled adaptation set to Benji Bower’s versatile lively score.
Join our intrepid family of adventurers and their musical dog on a quest to find a bear; as they wade through the gigantic swishy swashy grass, the splishy splashy river and the thick oozy, squelchy mud!
Expect catchy songs, interactive scenes and plenty of hands-on adventure! Adapted for the stage from the modern classic written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.
WE’RE GOING TO THE WEST END
WE’RE GOING TO SEE A BEAR HUNT
WHAT A BEAUTIFUL PLAY!
WE’RE NOT SCARED!
WE’RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT
Booking period: 4th July – 2nd September 2018
Running time: 55 minutes no interval
Age recommendation: 3+
Lyric Theatre, London