Bear at the Old Red Lion
From lighthearted and sweet to cryptic and disturbing, Andy McNamee’s Bear is an astoundingly profound and provocative piece based on the silliest premise: a woman gives birth to a bear. And yet, the depth of each character, the universal themes presented and the audience participation throughout creates a unique and entertaining experience that you simply do not expect.
Following a pregnant young couple through the joys and confusion of their firstborn, the pair quickly realise that their situation is not like any other, and despite their resolve to live out their lives normally, the effort will push them to breaking point.
Starring Anna Wheatley and Michael Gilhooly, the couple are perfectly in sync, flawlessly recreating the little niceties and the trivial arguments that make a relationship real. Individually, both actors bring a strong, convincing personality to their character. Wheatley is determined, compassionate and loving and her enthusiasm for motherhood resonates in each defense she presents to the critics that judge her situation. Gilhooly is honest and realistic and his progressive descent into madness is chilling to witness. The emotional and detailed way in which he describes murder leaves you breathless while crafting the most vivid mental image.
With a minimalist set and few costume changes, the production relies heavily on dialogue and the audience’s participatory narration to drive the story, but the creative way in which the blocking and music are used to establish tone is quite captivating. Within several scenes, there is no conversation whatsoever but you are pulled into the drama by the dynamism of the duo.
While the production is exploring a different theatrical form, sometimes the audience’s involvement can actually break the flow if the chosen narrator’s timing is off or if they lack enthusiasm. However, given the liveliness of the cast, it seems unlikely that you will not get into the spirit.
Bear is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 23rd February 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.