We’re going on a theatre trip. We’re going to see a good one. What a beautiful day. We’re excited.
Beautiful might not be doing the day justice. On Saturday, when We’re Going On A Bear Hunt held a special press performance, it was blisteringly hot (by British standards). Scorching heat and a room full of excited pre-schoolers don’t normally produce the most delightful of consequences, unless you’re a fan of screaming tantrums and epic wailing. Yet at the Lyric theatre, the auditorium was cool and the kids were kept enthralled and entertained for nearly an hour.
So were the adults, who were intrigued to know how you take a simple children’s library classic that can be read in five minutes and passes through a whole world of environments as a family sets off in search of a furry cave-dweller, and make it a meaty stage offering.
The answer is, of course, with music, enthusiasm and much child – and adult – friendly invention. Ben Harrison plays the most musically gifted of canines, perching at a drum kit and playing possibly the only kazoo in the West End to accompany the bear questers’ many songs, while Duncan Foster leads the family on their adventure as a Dad who resembles a sanitised Adrian Edmondson.
The treat of the show is in how director Sally Cookson has created the obstacles that so many parents have not been able to go over or under, so have had to go through at bedtimes over the years. To give these away would be to spoil much parental enjoyment, so let’s just say that the squelchy squerchy mud is suitably messy, the splishy sploshy water is suitably wet and the hoo woo snowstorm provides a small moment of wintry magic on a sweltering summer day. Each gives the young audience the all-important chance to get involved and be part of the action.
Chatting to parents post performance, there was a little concern that the much sought for bear might have been too frightening a reveal. Rest assured, he’s about as scary as a half melted Mr Whippy but with more rhythm.
The book ends with the line: “We’re never going on a bear hunt again.” My toddler and I most certainly would, even if we had to wade through rivers, stumble through forests and scramble through tall grassy meadows to get there.