We’re Going On A Bear Hunt Live is celebrating its 10th anniversary West End run this summer and guess what… we were there on Saturday to catch the show during its opening weekend. There was huge excitement all round as the 3 of us popped on the London underground to Piccadilly Circus, and took a short walk up to the impressive Lyric Theatre, London. I say walk, but there was plenty more skipping than walking as we raced up Shaftesbury Avenue, eager to get our adventure boots on.
Even though the show has been running for 10 years, this is the first time we were going to be seeing it. I know right? How is that possible?! Well here’s the thing. The first book that found its way onto Little Buttons bookshelf, before she was born that is, was We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. It’s a beloved, well-read classic for us. And one that is so deeply etched in our memories that even Daddy Button can recite the whole thing. So how do you even follow that? I didn’t want to dare imagine.
But then this happened.
The adventure begins
We took our seats in the stalls (row E is brilliant for the view and leg room) and reminiscent of the musical Lord of the Rings, the show starts with the bear hunt family stumbling across the audience. This super clever introduction not only set up the story, but more importantly invited us, the audience, into the adventure. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but one moment we were an audience watching a show, the next, it felt like we were in it. The invisible audience/stage wall was down, and there… the fantastic cast of 4 had the whole room hooked and ready to go on a bear hunt with them. If they had shouted ‘come on’, we probably would have all been up on stage with them. Boots on. Ready to dive through that swishy swashy grass.
We’re going on a bear hunt is beautifully re-told in a gentle, yet exciting way. Touching on every key moment in the book, and adding yet more fun and possibilities to the adventure. There’s a superb element of ‘play’ that remains strong throughout and audiences can make their own minds up on whether this was a real or ‘play’ adventure unfolding before them.
For us, the whole bear hunt family cast were incredible. The childlike qualities that Rebecca Newman (girl) and Joey Hickman (boy) brought to the stage were uncanny, as was their ability to whip everyone (including the grown ups) into an excited frenzy as the story unfolded. Thos Wainwright (dad) came across as fun-loving and ready to roll up his sleeves to get stuck in with the kids. And there was lots of applause for Britain’s Got Talent Benjamin Hills (dog) who seamlessly went from being the talented on-stage musician to a comical happy-go-lucky family pet.
I’m not sure I’ve seen a children’s show where a cast of 4 manage to vibrantly fill a stage with so much joy.
Catchy songs are a must for children’s shows and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt Live has these by the bucket load. We were all toe tapping in our seats from start to finish. With a stand out moment being when we were all invited to join in with the theme tune ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’. I looked to my side and Little Button was belting it out at the top of her voice, I looked back, and the same could be said for everyone, including myself. We just couldn’t help it! It was one of those magical moments that could only have happened because everyone was so engrossed in the story and having a complete blast.
An immersive world
The staging for this show is very minimal, yet at the same time becomes full and immersive with the use of clever lighting, simple props and ermmm… surprises! I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone who’s not been yet, but both the ‘deep cold river’ and ‘swirling whirling snowstorm’ had everyone shrieking with glee. We couldn’t’ stop laughing and for a moment it felt like we were playing a game with a ginormous group of friends.
Once through the long wavy grass, deep cold river and thick oozy mud, the thrill of finding ‘the bear’ starts to edge up a notch with every new finding. Now. It’s not scary, but rather plays on the anticipation of the unknown. Sensitive or young children could be spooked, but I don’t think those moments lasted long enough to cause any tears. Just an exhilarating build-up of expectation, a bit like playing a game of hide and seek. Little Buttons loved it, and the look on her face when the bear was finally found was priceless! The 55 minutes running time felt more like 10 because of the fun we were having. And on leaving the theatre Little Button asked ‘when are going on a bear hunt again mummy’.
If you’re going to do anything this summer, make it this!
No really. If you are going to see any children’s show this summer, I would most definitely recommend putting this one on your bucket list. It ticks all the boxes and more for a family friendly day out.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt Live! is running at the Lyric Theatre in London from July to the 2nd September 2018. It’s aimed at children aged 3 years old and upwards, which seems quite sensible. With ticket prices starting at a reasonable £15 a person.
If you can’t wait, here’s a peek at the trailer!