Bears in Space at the Soho
Wow! Bears in Space is a masterpiece that blends innovative storytelling, great performances, superb writing and talented puppetry into what can only be described as inter-galactic lunacy. Imagine Alice in Wonderland married Red Dwarf and they bore a child that coupled with the spawn of War Horse and The Mighty Boosh – their offspring would be the closest thing to resemble this fantastic production from the Collapsing Horse Theatre Company. From the moment the theatre lights are dimmed, the hilarity begins, flowing incessantly through to the finale.
The play is narrated by an electric guitar-playing alien (Cameron Macaulay) who, with the aid of his three mentally insufficient children, begins to tell the tale of a group of space travelling bears, just waking up from 700 years of cryogenic hibernation. What ensues is a whirlwind journey through deep space, planet cities and jungle prisons, portrayed through mind-blowingly resourceful puppetry, props, physical theatre and projectors.
For many, Game of Thrones star Jack Gleeson will be a major attraction of this play. However, though by far the biggest name, he shares the stage equally with his three co-stars. Playing various characters, including the ship’s computer, a skin monster and, fittingly, the villainous despot Premier Niko, Gleeson distinguishes himself as an accomplished comedic actor with an excellent grasp of timing. However, in terms of performance, the show is stolen by Aaron Heffernan, whose singing, characterisation, skilled puppetry and overall stage presence single him out as a man of exceptional talent. Yet the real star of the show has to be writer and performer Eoghan Quinn. The script is phenomenal, the story beautiful and complete.
Finding the flaws in this performance would involve scrutinising it with a fine comb which, even then, would struggle to dislodge any dross. However, it should be mentioned that part of the appeal of this play is watching it in a small, intimate theatre, and a large part of its success stems from its subtlety, which would doubtfully translate well in a large auditorium. All that is left to say about Bears in Space is that it is the perfect example of how sheer imagination and theatrical ingenuity can come together to tell a story which, though absolutely absurd, is consistently engaging, thought-provoking and, at times, moving.
Bears in Space is on at Soho Theatre from 3rd August until 22nd August 2015, for further information or to book visit here.