Tuesday, 26 November 2013

We're Going On A Bear Hunt, Nov 27, 2013 ****

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, based on book by Michael Rosen
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Dec 8, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Thur Nov 28, 2013 and later in print. KH

West End production of the award-winning book by Michael Rosen illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

 Pics of UK cast, not visiting cast

“We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. We’re going to catch a big one,” chant hundreds of pre-schoolers in this impishly cute adaptation of Michael Rosen’s award-winning children’s picture book.

This visiting, West End production, directed by Sally Cookson, captures the mischievous quality of the popular book and has everything you need for family entertainment: a gently adventurous narrative, recognisable characters, singable songs and fun participation.

An intrepid father (Gareth Warren) takes his two kids (Adam Collier, Emily May Smith), dog (Ben Harrison who is also musician) and baby on an adventure to hunt a bear, but they encounter all sorts of obstacles on the way.

Their impediments include swishy-swashy grass, splishy-sploshy water, sticky, oozy mud, a big, gloomy forest and a scary bear cave.

On a simple stage, three actors and a musician create a genuinely entertaining journey for the children, with a perky and catchy title song that the kids all learn (I sang it all the way home), and plenty of other cheerful, singable tunes (Benji Bower).

The characters are charming and the actors are warm and engaging, addressing the children directly and inviting them to participate in singalongs and be the expert on a bear’s appearance.

The children delight in the actors’ slapstick antics, shrieking with delight at the naughty, messy bits, particularly the cast spraying water pistols over the entire crowd and doing icky, muddy hand painting on each other’s clothes.

It’s delicious to hear the crowd squeal when a huge bear appears, and tiny, shrill voices calling out suggestions or warnings of danger.

Rosen’s book works on an educational as well as an entertainment level, with the children learning some intricacies of language – prepositions in particular – when they repeat at every obstacle, “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, so we’ll have to go through it.”

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is wholesome, cheeky fun for young families so get down to the Arts Centre before it leaves town for another adventure,

By Kate Herbert

Directed by Sally Cookson
Music by Benji Bower 

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