Based on the picture book by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury
Directed by Sally Cookson
Produced by Kenny Wax Family Entertainment
The Lowry, Salford Quays, until Sunday 1st September; 60min
Michael Rosen’s 1989 picture book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is rightly considered a children’s classic - it’s been a bedroom staple in our house since my son was a baby.
It has all the necessary ingredients - beautiful illustrations by Helen Oxenbury, fun repetitive rhyming language to read-along to, and not forgetting a dash of mild peril!
So how would it translate to the stage? Thankfully, brilliantly (phew!). This is up there with the best children's book-to-stage adaptations we've seen (an opinion confirmed by my four year old, who said it was "as good as What The Ladybird Heard" – which is high praise, believe me).
The staging is ingenious. Set against a backdrop of an evocative watercolour paint splodge, the much-loved elements of the book (mud, grass, snow) are brought to life by the enthusiastic cast using stuff you’d find at home – washing-up bowls, bed sheets, paint and paper. Using familiar elements of messy play that the little ones in the audience will recognise, and indeed be able to recreate at home, is a very savvy move by director Sally Cookson, and incredibly effective.
The brilliant cast of four (technically five if we include the all-important titular bear) shows fantastic energy throughout, individually and as an ensemble. Tim Hibberd's sardonic dad has just the right amount of wry humour to get adults in the audience on board, but with boundless energy and warmth to get the kids on side too. Hannah Donelon and Artie Godden as the young girl and boy display great comic timing and physical comedy, and Benjamin Hills as the family dog is great fun. He only says the occasional "woof", but plays a multitude of instruments, bringing Benji Bower's score to life. My little reviewer’s favourite bit? Obviously the obligatory water pistols that brought the splishy-sploshy river to life. But he giggled throughout, clutched my arm whenever he heard the bear roar and said it was a "nice" surprise when the eventually-found bear didn’t turn out to be in the least bit scary. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is the perfect summer holiday treat for your little bear cubs – and if you want to prolong the fun there’s an accompanying bear hunt-themed trail at the Lowry and neighbouring outlet mall. Collect a fun sheet from the customer service desk in the mall and give it a go. In a word, roarsome! #BearHunt #MichaelRosen #Roarsome