Friday 8 December 2017

The Bear - Waterside, Sale, Manchester Theatre Review

Waterside Arts Centre might have rebranded as Waterside, but that was the only thing that had changed since our last visit. It was lovely to be back in the warm friendly atmosphere that this smaller theatre offers. We were there as guests to review The Bear, presented by Pins And Needles and based on the work of one of my favourite children's authors and initiator of my love of books, Raymond Briggs.

Before you even go into the auditorium itself, the whole building is decorated in blues and white and you walk on paw prints in snow towards the seating. It sets the scene in a brilliant way and my boys were bursting with excitement as they sat down. Pure magic. 

The early evening 6pm showings are 'Slumber Shows' where Pyjamas are encouraged to be worn (wrap up well though!) and cookies and milk are available to buy for all little people. At only £2 it's a must have. My boys were delighted with their little 'Slumber Pack' snack bags.

The Bear is a 1994 book by Raymond Briggs and the story told in Pins and Needles performance starts at Tilly's house, not long before The Bear first climbs in through her window. She realises quite swiftly that living with a real polar bear is hard work. The 3 actors play Tilly and her parents, but are also excellent puppeteers, the beautiful and rightly huge bear has amazing personality.

The stage set was a postcard backdrop centred with Tilly's big opening bedroom window, or a kitchen cupboard, depending on the setting. Huge props were wheeled on and off stage throughout, but it was woven into the performance excellently and even provided a few comedy moments. The 3 actors danced their way through set changes with a big grin for the audience.

The lighting was perfect. It felt just a little cold in that theatre and I'm sure it really wasn't. When Tilly's bedroom window blows open you expect to feel the wind howling through, and when it snows - it really snowed! (A surprise that made all the children giggle with delight).

The acting was bold and just slightly larger-than-life. It worked excellently and was a great representation of the comic strip illustrations literally 'brought to life'. All of the characters were believable and I don't think the actors missed a single line. Leigh Quinn did an excellent job, it's never easy for an adult to portray a child, but she did it well. Max Tyler and Lori Hopkins worked wonders, swapping from human to bear and back again. The bear though was utterly gorgeous. Photos don't show the shine and personality he had. Dangerous and intimidating, but with that sadness which polar bears carry, and a tiny hint of raised eyebrow...

Recommended for age 3-11, we all had an excellent evening whatever age. Seeing the faces of my 7 and 9 year old boys, glued to the stage and grinning, was just amazing. There's a little sadness in this story, as with many of Raymond Briggs' tales, and the time comes for The Bear to leave. I think at least half the adult audience cried, as a child at the front sobbed just loud enough for us to hear them.

It was a funny, beautiful and poignant rendition that none of us will forget in a hurry. A brilliant play for the younger members of the family at 55 minutes long, with very little shouting or banging. The Bear is an ideal introduction to theatre, but it offered so much to an older audience that I still had a tear in my eye half way home. If you are looking for something a little less 'Panto', this could well be ideal for you.

The Bear is showing at Waterside (formerly Waterside Arts Centre), Sale, Manchester, until Saturday 6th January. Tickets £12.50-£16.50 per person. Slumber Packs are £2.00, please call box office on 0161 912 5616 to pre-book. British Sign Language (BSL) performances: 9 & 22 December,  Relaxed Performance: 22 December. For more information or to book tickets, go to the Waterside website

You can find out what other people thought over at That Lancashire LassGoing On An Adventure and Rambling Through Parenthood

Waterside is also currently playing host to the Cosgrove Hall exhibit - which is free to see and well worth a visit - you'll all see something familiar!

Our visit was free to review.

1 comment:

  1. Was lovely to see you at press night, Jenny. Glad you had a wonderful time xx


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