Review by Carmel Shortall
Little Bear is a tale of magic and loss, of discord and friendship, and of hope. The play is set in an enchanted forest and performed out-of-doors in the nearest thing to an enchanted forest that Camden has to offer: the lush and beautiful St Martin’s Garden.
- Yesterday’s performance of Ryan Sullivan’s play on a sunny evening was perfect entertainment for the children (age 6+) and adults alike sitting in the gardens. As the audience gathered , members of the cast (Ception Theatre) were getting into place adding to the illusion of the enchanted forest: Jaeger, the hunter strode about menacingly while Tarwe hid in some bushes and a girl lay curled up on the ‘forest’ floor, asleep.
At the start of the play, Ula, a little girl whose sister is ill, is found sleeping in the forest by Tarwe, a faun-like creature who trips over her and mistakes her for a talking log. He is fleeing from Jaeger, the hunter. When the danger passes he stops to tell Ula – soon to become Little Bear – the story of Jaeger, the hunter and Genevieve, the protector of the forest. Before she can return home to help her dying sister, Ula must solve a riddle to find a healing flower and bring Genevieve and Jaeger together.
Despite the fairy tale elements, the play has darker roots and after the show Ryan explained that he based Little Bear on the real concerns and problems – such as parental break-up, family illness and even getting lost in a maze – on the stories told by young volunteers in a workshop he ran in Lancaster.
The cast really enter into the spirit of the play: Ed Badham as Jaegaer is moody and driven; Michelene Maris as Genevieve is conflicted – at once nurturing and dismissive of Ula. Sean Hammond as Tarwe scampers around like a woodland sprite and Laura Markham as Ula/Little Bear is childlike – playing with Tarwe one minute and crying for her sister another.
Little Bear will be performed every evening from the 1st to the 7th August (except Thursday 4th) at 7pm, and there will be a matinee at 1pm on Saturday 6th August as well as the evening performance, at St Martin’s Garden, Pratt Street, NW1 0HR. Come early and bring a picnic. Plastic cover sheets are provided so you won’t get damp sitting on the grass. All performances are free.