Review: BEAR SNORES ON, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

A stunning production that will bring joy to people of all ages

By: Mar. 28, 2024
Review: BEAR SNORES ON, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
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Review: BEAR SNORES ON, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

“Life is too short to eat a bland stew”

Bear Snores On is a musical adaption of the children’s book by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, in which a group of animals are hiding from a winter storm in a sleeping bear’s den. The show, written and directed by Cush Jumbo and Katy Sechiari with music and lyrics by Harry Blake, takes audiences on a journey through Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, beginning outdoors and ending in an indoor pop-up space built on the property for this show. 

We begin on the picnic lawn of the theatre, where a nice little garden has been set up. The gardener (Ashley D. Gayle), is on his lunch break and is surprised to see an audience staring at him, saying, “You do know that the theatre is closed for winter, right?” Once he realises we’re here to stay, he tells us about his hatred for animals, a very Mr McGregor-esque type who doesn’t want any vermin ruining his hard work. But very quickly, his worst nightmares come true as the animals invade his garden, stealing his food and running away, except for Mouse (Lauren Conroy), who is curious and wants to talk to the gardener. But she must quickly run away, for a winter storm is coming!

Mouse leads us to a different part of the lawn, where we enter a tunnel lit with twinkling fairy lights, the floor covered in a light flog. We have all been given wristbands which reveal their purpose once they start glowing in the tunnel, guiding our way through into Bear’s cave (don’t worry, the path is already well-lit!). The wristbands are used throughout the show to emphasise the lighting, designed by Joshie Harriette. The transfer from the lawn to the “cave” is a truly magical experience that had me incredibly excited for the rest of the show.

After settling down into the cave and singing a very sweet song about wanting to find a home for herself while building a fire with the younger audience members, Mouse is soon joined by Hare, played by Ashh Blackwood, who emerges from a trap door in the floor, a spy on a mission to investigate the cave. Blackwood gives a fantastic performance, particularly with a catchy song about not waking Bear that I’ve had stuck in my head for the past day!

Review: BEAR SNORES ON, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
 Hare (Ashh Blackwood) & Mouse (Lauren Conroy)

We are then joined by Badger, played by Annabel Marlow as a delightfully overdramatic diva, crashing into the cave with bags from Sainsbury’s and complaining about the weather outside. She immediately begins preparing a stew for her and Hare, not realising that they aren’t the only ones in the cave. There are hints of romance between Badger and Hare, or at least a one-sided one as Badger pines for Hare and grows jealous of how their friend has befriended Mouse, who simply wants to be friends with everyone, including the sleeping Bear. 

Albert Graver is a delight as both Raven and Wren, donning a black outfit to represent the one bird and wearing a little bird puppet decked out in sunglasses and a pearl necklace. Graver provides most of the beats for the songs in the show, using a keypad on his hip. And, of course, we cannot forget Bear, played by Ashley D. Gayle, who makes a fantastic appearance at the end of the show that genuinely had me in awe of the puppet that had been created for the character. Gayle does a great job portraying Bear in a way that isn’t too scary for the children but does appear to be a little intimidating when facing the other animals in his lair. All of the performers do a wonderful job in interacting with the children while still keeping the show moving, with the ushers stepping in as needed in case anyone needs to leave.

There are also other characters played by puppets, designed and directed by Maia Kirkman-Richards. I particularly loved the simple yet adorable mole that makes several appearances throughout, popping their head out from a range of holes in the set. Set and costume designer Rebecca Brower has created an entirely new world for audiences to explore, brought to life by not only the performers but the puppets, lighting and music as well.

Review: BEAR SNORES ON, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Hare (Ashh Blackwood), Mouse (Lauren Conroy), Badger (Annabel Marlow) and Bear (Ashley D. Gayle)

Bear Snores On is a stunning production that will bring joy not only to the young ones but to people of all ages. Each of the performers are incredible and it is a pleasure to watch them sing, dance and act. The creative choices made by Jumbo, Sechiari, Blake and the entire team have breathed new life into the classic book, bringing the characters to life in a magical way. Bear may snore on, but Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is alive and thriving!

Bear Snores On runs until 21 April 2024 at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

Photo Credits: Marc Brenner