Reviewed by Lacey Anning
I love the book, ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. It was one of my favourite books growing up, and one that I thoroughly enjoy reading to my children so I jumped at the chance to review the stage production.
The show started with the cast coming through the audience, which was good, although I don’t think quite a few of the audience actually realised that the show had begun. It soon picked up though and the cast broke into song. Those of you who have read the book will know that it features the pet dog. For some reason, the stage show has the dog portrayed by an actor, who isn’t wearing a costume, or even a mask. The show is recommended for 3+ year olds, and to ask children of this age to try and pretend that the man is a dog is a little hard to do. I struggled, and knew what he was supposed to be! It didn’t help that at one point the ‘dog’ was playing Brahms Lullaby on a mouth organ.
The swishy swashy grass was very effective. We then moved onto the river scene, and it took a while to try and work out what was happening. The main aim of the river scene appeared to be to get as many people in the audience as wet as possible.
The baby went to sleep into a box and then reawakened in the forest scene, where it seemed that the main part of the scene was the baby learning to take its first steps, and the dad missing them and then seeing them again. The baby didn’t really add anything at all to the show.
My daughter’s favourite part was the audience participation, where they split the audience and got them involved with chanting the song. She loved shouting out at them. This was the most animated she was throughout the show, and I did think at one point she may have fallen asleep. There were other children in the audience and comments from other parents we overheard that seemed to think the same. The show is recommended for ages 3+. I’d be inclined to say at least 4, and possibly if they didn’t know the book as well.
When we finally met the bear, it was thankfully a bear costume, so no imagination was needed to remember what he was trying to be. The bear was brilliantly acted.
More confusion reigned when the dad and children got back to the house and entered it via the smallest door possible. Why on earth they use what they use I don’t know. Despite managing to get into the house and up the stairs, when they then went downstairs to shut the door, ‘Dad’ managed to lock himself out, and then proceeded to tell us he had locked the keys in the car (that didn’t appear to be a problem when they first got to the house?), before the ‘children’ then gleefully announced that the ‘baby’ had managed to pick the lock from the inside of the house to let ‘Dad’ back in. It is script like this which has really let the production of this show down.
The theatre itself was lovely. The seats were comfortable and the staff were extremely helpful, offering to securely store our buggy for us during the performance. The security checks didn’t take a minute either.
The actors were ok, at times appearing a lot more hyperactive than they needed to be. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that they could do with the screenplay that had been written and to quote from the book and show itself – ‘We’re not going on a bear hunt again’, although would definitely visit the theatre itself.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit www.bearhuntlive.com.
For other shows at the New Theatre in Oxford visit www.atgtickets.com/oxford or call the box office on 0844 871 3020.
New Theatre Oxford, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AG | 0844 871 3020