Theatre review: Bear at the Old Red Lion

Bear - Anna Wheatley and Michael Gilhooly

Bear - Anna Wheatley and Michael Gilhooly - Credit: Archant

This is described as an example of a new theatrical form in which the audience participate in the narration.

The two actors are on stage as the audience come in. They play together on the sofa laughing and talking – but not so that we can hear what’s going on. They are representing a young couple happy and comfortable with each other.

When the audience lights go down the girl hands to a member of the audience a card and a microphone and the person chosen has to read out what is on the card. It introduces the story, reminding us that it is not actually true, but it is an allegory about the problems of coping with an ‘special’ child. As the play progresses these narrations happen more and more. This is intended to bring the audience into the action, but I must admit that some people in the front row sit shaking with fear. Of course they are obviously never picked on, those that are seem happy to join in. Much of the action on stage is in dumb show and it is quite well in to the performance before we actually hear the voices of the performers.

The young woman, believing she is pregnant visits the doctor and finds out that she is actually carrying a bear. There is a lot of comedy in this initial situation but one is aware that there can only be one ending to this story – and it will have to be a tragic one.

The actors work well together and they take on all the roles between them. Michael Gihooly who plays ‘he’ is especially good as the embarrassed doctor who finds it almost impossible to tell the girl (Anna Wheatley) the truth of her impending delivery and suggests that she gets an abortion. She refuses, the story hits the press and becomes a nine days wonder.

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Andy McNamee is credited as writer and director and the producers Paulden Hall have been responsible for man y popular and award winning productions. It will be interesting to see what the world thinks of this one.


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