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Old-school entertainment

AWESOME Review: Bear With Me ⋅
State Theatre Centre, October 7 ⋅
Review by Lydia Edwards⋅

It’s not every day you see bears entering an auditorium on the arms of their young owners. But Bear With Me wouldn’t have a show without them. That’s what makes this performance so enchanting — its hands-on yet entirely unpressured emphasis on audience participation.

The stage is set simply. The small auditorium at the State Theatre Centre is set with chairs, floor cushions and cardboard boxes, which immediately became seats for each bear, pig, sloth and rabbit in attendance. There is a screen between two microphones on which black-and-white images of an endearingly tattered bear engage the youngest while simple prompts provide guidance for the older children and adults in attendance.

Hosts Tyrone (David Megarrity), in fez and tuxedo, and Lesley (Samuel Vincent), in 1930s-style tweed trousers with braces, address their audience from the start as “bear experts”, giving a delightful sense of ownership and authority.

With gentle introductions and soft ukulele chords, their young audience is ushered into 45 minutes of a refreshingly old-fashioned show that considers the essence of that much-loved childhood symbol: the teddy bear.

With shades of Flanders and Swann, Tyrone and Lesley present a series of sweet, amusing short songs designed to appeal to children between the ages of 2 and 5 (one about bottoms went down especially well with my three-year-old), interspersed with musings on the nature of the Bear.

“Are we part of the bear, or is the bear part of us?” Tyrone asks, combining metaphysics with, perhaps, a genuine question as his audience gaze intently into the eyes of their little companions. This is a gentle and relaxed performance, far from the bright lights, colours and intense enthusiasm of many contemporary children’s shows.

That is probably because, in many respects, this is not contemporary. It harks back to a simpler mode of entertainment, with Lesley’s mute yet warm presence and Tyrone’s vaudevillian repartee.

In the disquiet of our times it is heartening to know that such a deceptively simple, comforting performance has the ability to engage and engross.

Bear With Me is on until October 11.

Pictured (left to right): David Megarrity as Tyrone and Samuel Vincent as Lesley in Bear With Me.  Photo: Jocelyn Vincent.

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