• By Kat Pope
  • |
  • 8th Jul 2013
  • |
  • ★★★★★

After extensive touring, We're Going on a Bear Hunt settles in the daytime slots at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue this month.

Based on the much loved Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury book, Bear Hunt is an affectionate little show which manages to pad out the five minute read-it-out-loud story to 55 minutes of gentle but energetic fun. The plot is of course a non-plot. Nothing much happens. A dad leads his son, daughter and baby on an ursine pursuit, through (never under, never over, oh no!) a forest, river, mud and a snowstorm. They meet a bear. The end.

And yet, as Rosen realised when he wrote his bestseller, it's the kids' imaginations that fill in the big blanks and here at the Lyric they're given a little help (..as are the parents, who weren't as good on the old imagination front in the first place!)

The four-man show rolls along wonderfully on the crest of its catchy theme tune which I guarantee you'll be humming for days afterwards. There's Dad, straightforward but ebullient, who keeps everyone safe ("Don't worry. Dad's here"), played by Duncan Foster, who created the character for the piece and has been performing it ever since. Then there's the daughter (Rowena Lennon) and son (Gareth Warren), and the highly effective cloth puppet baby who appears at the beginning and the end of show but disappears for a kip in a cardboard box in the more strenuous middle.

Oh, and there's Buddy of course, the playful dog. Played by Ben Harrison in a pair of dungarees, a flying ace's hat and bottle glasses that bounce up and down on his face like a pair of wobbly tits, he also doubles up as a musician, often bounding off to his one-man-band set-up at the side of the stage. Kazoos, basic percussion, a uke, and an oboe are used to create a unique atmosphere of British eccentricity that fits in perfectly with the non-story (although bears? In Britain? I've always thought that odd).

The props are basic, the forest being represented by broom handles with green fronds of material attached, the river by blue buckets, the mud by paint and the snowstorm....well, I'll leave that as a nice little surprise. All I will say is don't wear your best clothes! Megaphones are shouted into, and old panto tricks utilized well, and there's even a bit of Morris dancing and some Bavarian thigh-slapping all served up with unthreatening, smile-inducing vim.

Do we get to see the bear? We sure do, and he's as far away from grrrrrrr as you can imagine, running onto the stage to Keystone Cops-style piano tinkling, while the kids in the audience shout wild and heartfelt warnings to the characters they know and have come to love.

Often, shows for children are endurance tests for the adults in their lives, but Bear Hunt bridges that gap and creates chaotic fun for all ages to enjoy. Highly recommended.

Reviews by Kat Pope

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Music, laughter, songs, rhythms, rhymes and repetitions; with puppetry, paints, water and mud, not to mention a bear - we’re not scared! SALLY COOKSON’s hugely inventive production set to BENJI BOWER’s quirky musical score is a mischievous celebration of play, utilising everyday objects and materials, to capture the imagination and catapult young audiences into the world of MICHAEL ROSEN and illustrator HELEN OXENBURY‘s much loved picture book.

Most Popular See More

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £45.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets