3 Bears

Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A Clydebuilt Puppet Theatre production

Reviewed at Little Angel Theatre
Playing at Little Angel Theatre until 12th February 2017
For ages 3-7

Clydebuilt Theatre’s adaptation sees Goldilocks and the Three Bears for what it really is – a domestic drama. This is the story of an ordinary family (albeit one of carnivoran mammals), in a typical home (complete with beds, bowls and chairs), with an everyday routine: reading the newspaper, doing the housework and of course, making porridge for breakfast. It seems fitting that storyteller Steve Smart sets the story in a kitchen, whisking the tale into existence using utensils and groceries. The three bears are sacks of porridge, whilst Goldilocks, with her sweet tooth, is a jar of sticky golden syrup; Mummy Bear’s chair is a folded oven mitt and Baby Bear’s bed is a tea-towel drawer. 3 Bears is full of these cleverly creative transformations and Smart’s adept object manipulation.

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3 Bears is the familiar fairytale with all the usual ingredients, plus a few extra to give it a more interesting flavour. In Clydebuilt Theatre’s version, Goldilocks heralds from a city on the other side of the wild wood, where everything is made of glass and metal, and it is very noisy. Goldilocks is very noisy too, and demanding – she thumps around, shrieking for a spoon of golden syrup to lick and yelling for her dad who is busy working in the big baking factory. Unsurprisingly friendless, she storms off into the woods as something to do, and has no qualms about barging into someone else’s house, using and breaking their things as she goes. That the bears and their home are part of a natural wooden world, and Goldilocks is from a man-made metal one, feels significant – the stomping, stealing, entitled daughter-of-a-factory-owner mistreating this peaceful home in the countryside could be a comment on the effect of industrialization on the environment, or of capitalism on rural communities. Maybe that’s analysing it too much, and besides, those struggles haven’t ended with everyone making flapjacks.

The audience are involved in the storytelling, from inputting into Smart’s creative choices (“Could we make the wild woods out of spoons and forks?”) to the character’s actions (“Can you help me make porridge?” Daddy Bear asks). Family shows can be at risk of pitching content over children’s heads in a bid to appeal to adults whereas 3 Bears does the exact opposite. Some adults may be a bit mystified as the audience of children roar with laughter at Smart’s performance, which seems to go under the grown-up’s heads (if that’s a thing) and straight for the children’s funny bone. The way the bears’ eat, covering their whole face with the bowl and guzzling noisily, or Baby Bear accidentally dropping his rattle in Daddy Bear’s bowl and falling in himself as he tries to retrieve it, or the loud clattering sound of Goldilocks’ metallic world being built – all of that is hilarious. The show’s general noisiness really works – there’s lots of scraping of bowls,and  tapping of spoons –  spurring on the gently boisterous atmosphere.

Some might dislike the show’s forcibly cheery nature. At times it’s almost as syrupy as Goldilocks, with Smart’s enthusiastic greeting and farewell reminiscent of an ‘80s children’s TV presenter, and the play eventually becoming a parable about sharing. However, if the young people watching with me this morning are anything to go by, for them it’s not too cheery, and it’s not too syrupy: it’s just right.

Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more information and to help give children’s theatre the voice it deserves, please visit our Patreon page.

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