The Bear

Tue 7th May 2013

reviews

Rosie Oxbury

at 07:34 on 8th May 2013

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Describing itself as a “film noir thriller”, 'The Bear' is an eclectic and refreshing take on the murder mystery genre. The play revolves around Angela, a solicitor’s clerk, as she embarks on a hunt for “the bear”: the plot follows her on the one hand through a bizarre murder case, but also on a surreal journey into the mystery of her own personality.

Beautifully scripted and directed, the play moves seamlessly between the comic and the sinister, juxtaposing the disturbing with the ridiculous (directed by Lee Simpson). The series of contrasts across which the production played was in itself impressive: The Bear combined and juxtaposed elements of American and Irish culture, danced between period and postmodern, and in terms of music spanned from the blues to Western folk. The Bear deployed a highly stylized combination of a minimalist set with atmospheric spotlighting and acoustics (designed by Rae Smith and Lucy Sierra). The timing of music and changes of lighting was perfect, and the most unexpected changes of mood and genre were achieved as scenes slotted into place beside one another (lighting, Beky Stoddart; sound, Mark Cunningham).

Angela Clerkin was charismatic and engaging in the role of Angela, while both actors played a range of parts and segued flawlessly between roles. The “revenge songs” promised in the blurb proved both comic and chilling by turns, and earned applause in their own right: these were the darkly comic “I didn’t do it” and the mesmerising blues number “Walk away” (composed by Nick Powell). Equally impressive was the brief interlude of Irish dancing, which could so easily have been ludicrous but was actually quite haunting.

The production only fell down on a couple of counts. Sadly, the final ingredient which the blurb explicitly promised, tension, was for the most part lacking. At times one could hear the audience fidgeting, as the dialogue seemed to move slowly and there was insufficient energy, it seemed, to carry the plot – which was surprising, given the electricity of other scenes. And the plot maintained the appearance of being cleverly constructed but sadly did not match the expectations it had raised, proving anticlimactic at the last, rather than pulling the rabbit (or indeed the bear) out of the hat as one might have hoped.

With surprises at every turn, the production certainly lived up to the company’s name, “Improbable”. In terms of theatricality, nothing was wanting; it was just unfortunate that at times, the drama itself let the side down.

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