Sunday, 13 November 2022

The Bear Unecessities

 “Oh well, bears will be bears,” said Mr Brown.” - Michael Bond

There are a surprising number of plays which call for a bear to appear on stage: 'A Winter's Tale' probably being the most well known. Usually, and for obvious reasons, they are represented by some technical trickery such as back projection. In a version of Philip Pullman's ' His Dark Materials' that I saw many years ago the actors playing the polar bears wore very large, but non-naturalistic head gear which worked well. In my review of Cavalli's 'La Calisto' I mention that they rendered the bear very effectively, without bothering to include the detail of exactly how they did it. Presumably I assumed my memory would be sufficient; it isn't. Why am I reminiscing about ursine theatrics? Because I've just seen a bear on stage that was far superior to any other that I have ever seen. I'd like at this point to include a picture of it, but I can't find one online so this one will have to do.

And the play? It was 'Guy Fawkes', guess what's in the barrels in the background there. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on the Gunpowder Plot, but I think all readers in the UK at least will be familiar with the basics of the story, which after all gets trotted out annually. Those basics have, in my case at least, until now excluded the bit about the bear. Still, thankfully one is never too old to learn something new.

The play may have been, shall we say, creative, but wasn't really very good. It did however make me laugh sufficient times to make me glad I went. And that is essentially the problem; they did it as a comedy. Which, when your subject matter is the plotting of a terrorist act intended to cause mass slaughter after which the protagonists are tortured and then hung, drawn and quartered, is to set oneself a difficult task. The author went for treating it as drunken pub talk that got out of hand; it didn't work. But, as I mentioned before, the bear was good.

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