Bear Hug

Billed as a rom-com, Bear Hug looked to be a pretty safe bet for some laughs – described as a story about how coming out is easy but how getting back in is harder. As a new piece of writing by Rory Mackenzie as part of The Mermaids Arts Fund, from The University of St Andrews, I was hoping for some fresh and hilarious take on a coming out story.

Terms like ‘shirt lifter’ – and worse – are thrown around pretty flippantly.

The story takes us to a house party. Alex is back from uni for the holidays and can't quite believe that his parents have agreed to let him have a house party. What he doesn't know is that they think their son is gay and have decided to use this fancy-dress party to go incognito and find out the truth. Little do they know that Alex is relying on the party to tell the girl he loves how he feels. Along comes his best friend Tim, who decides to tell girl, parents and everyone else that Alex is indeed gay. Once it's out, there's no controlling the rumour mill as Alex tries desperately to protest the truth.

There are several fundamental things wrong with this play and a couple that go even deeper than that. First off it's not new material as I hoped. The writing is nothing new at all, really. The gags have all been done before and the humour is tired because of it. To be frank, I didn't laugh once. If you are going to mention coming out on your flyer, you are inevitably going to attract a gay audience and therefore you must be pretty sure on your point of view. Terms like ‘shirt lifter’ – and worse – are thrown around pretty flippantly.

The acting seems to be based on the concept of each actor adopting one comedic tic and repeating it. This means that Tom Giles' Tim spends 99 per cent of the show with an expression of slack-jawed, open-mouthed humour as Isabelle Arnson's Anna repeats a coquettish lip-licking after every line. To call it tedious is putting it lightly.

This is like one of those bad late-night TV sitcoms you watch when nothing else is on. Except you can't switch this off half-way through and decide that you might want to go to bed after all. 

Reviews by Hannah Lucy Baker

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The Blurb

It’s Halloween tonight so all the drinking and dressing up is bound to make everyone a little bit crazy. Alex has a lot of love but he doesn’t know where to put it. So at his Halloween costume party he resolves to bare all – his love, his soul and possibly his dignity. However, some unexpected guests threaten to ruin everything. Tonight he will learn that if coming out can be hard, coming in can be even harder. Heart-warming romcom with booze, bears and some queer goings-on, by Rory Mackenzie, ‘I was exhausted from laughing’ ***** (Stand.Tab.co.uk).

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