Growing up with Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman a firm backdrop to Christmas, I eagerly awaited taking my children to the Millennium Centre in Cardiff to see, another favourite picture book, The Bear brought to the stage by Pins and Needles.
The Bear tells the story of Tilly. A young girl who is amazed and delighted when a polar bear climbs through her bedroom window one night. Tilly welcomes the bear with open arms, but quickly realises a bear can be hard work. With bad breath and a slight clumsiness, also comes the problem that the bear isn’t toilet trained. And whilst offering great humour, Tilly comes to consider whether her home is the best home for the bear.
And, of course, Tilly’s parents are bemused by tales of the polar bear, and a little frustrated of the impact of Tilly’s on the family home. On stage, The Bear is simply beautiful. Of course, Tilly- performed by Susanna Jennings- quickly gains favour of the younger audience. Wandering around ahead of the story beginning and making conversation, CM was slightly bemused by Tilly thinking eight was old.
Once the story begins the boys had one of their favourite moments as Tilly performs in her own band. With childlike mannerisms there was a conviction which the children could associate. Lucy Grattan and Benedict Chambers, not only create the very familiar parental qualities but many other roles within the play.
The set is very cleverly designed, changing from Tilly’s bedroom, to the family bathroom, kitchen, the parents’ bedroom, and eventually forming the North Pole. It is undertaken through seamless movement, predominately of the parents but including Tilly.
In addition to this, there is the focus and triumph of the piece – the puppeteering. Whilst B was positive he was going to be scared of the bear, there was no way upon meeting him properly this could be possible.
The cast create a gentle persona to the bear which fitted well within the piece, and allowed the children to fall a little bit in love with him, especially given his antics.
There are lots of additional elements to the production, which keep the young audience engaged. From where to dispose of the bear’s poo, to bubbles, a flying fish, with a finale of the magic of snow.
The snow is simply the icing on the case of the finale. This is a heart-warming story, and the end is absolutely beautiful in this regard. The production is aimed at children aged 3- 11. What I realised is that it is more about the person than their age.
CM and I really enjoyed and engaged in the piece. With the beauty of the story and the technical elements to appreciate, there is much to love. For B and E, there were moments of ants in pants. The story didn’t capture their imaginations as fluently and some of the appeal was lost.
We were however agreed on our favourite elements, of which there were many. It is a lovely reflection of the magic of theatre, and a perfect piece for this time of year.
The Bear is at the Wales Millennium Centre until 31st December, with tickets available on the website.
You can also see a simultaneous production (from which the photos shown are taken) at Waterside Arts Centre in Sale until 6th January, with tickets available on their website.
Disclosure: We were invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions contained are our own.