Elizabeth Nicholls reviews We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, playing at Bristol Old Vic until Sunday 28 July
On Friday 26 July my four-year-old son and I visited Bristol Old Vic to watch We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
Michael Rosen’s story illustrated by Helen Oxenbury was first published in 1989 and has been a firm family favourite ever since. My Son and I know this book very well and were interested to find out how it translated to the stage.
Sally Cookson’s adaptation enhances the well-known story with audience interaction and sensory experiences. There is a sense of naughtiness about seeing things that don’t usually occur in a theatre environment – it’s messy, it’s soggy, it’s noisy and it’s a lot of fun.
Buddy the dog was the highlight of the show, a multi-talented mutt indeed, at one point he was seen playing the drums and kazoo simultaneously while also babysitting. Buddy is also a master of the guitar, melodica and accordion, adding lively musical accompaniment to the catchy songs.
The story builds so beautifully with costumes and scenery providing an aesthetic true to the style of Helen Oxenbury’s original illustrations.
I will say, however, I was a little disappointed when the bear was revealed in the narrow gloomy cave, bumbling about with all the grace of a football mascot. My Son seems to agree with my opinion on this, stating; “I thought it was like Scooby-doo, I thought he would take the mask off and a real bear would be underneath”.
The final chase added an element of scare but nothing that would be too traumatising for little viewers with big imaginations, I particularly enjoyed the moment when the group declare they are “never going on a bear hunt again” and snuggle under the iconic pink-tufted duvet, perfectly replicating the last illustration of the book.
All in all, this show is fun and inspiring and we left the theatre feeling eager to recreate some messy playful scenes back home.
For further information, and to book online, visit bristololdvic.org.uk