If you’re under five, this is your show. If you’ve by far reached your pre-prime, then you can rejoice at how simple life once was with The Polar Bears Go Up. Following last year’s success The Polar Bears Go Wild, Fish and Game bring their cheeky polar bears back to the Unicorn Theatre to take little ones for another soaring adventure. This time a star-balloon has run wild and the polar bears go above and beyond – including using spaceships and trampolines – to get it back.
Eilidh MacAskill and Fiona Manson’s performance is fun, entertaining and delightfully carefree as we follow the polar bears reaching for the stars. Being a silent performance there’s a lot of cheekiness in character, movement and play with music which sends the little audience members into a fit of laughter. Their timings are excellent and there’s an admirable calmness about the pace and confidence of their performance that I certainly would have lost five seconds into showcasing my best polar bear for two school classes. The design is simple and cleverly multi-functional with lots of tricks and delights wowing us on the way. Using very few but effective props we are imaginatively transported from a cable car to the moon and back to the Arctic, all with a charming underscore and lots of comical effects along the way. The costumes are a cute mix of bear and human with the appropriate explorer googles (all polar bears have these, right?) and it’s evident from the very beginning that little ones will absolutely adore them.
The Polar Bears Go Up is a sweet little adventure with an interactive and inventive set, lots of charm and a naughty star-balloon every child wants to get their hands on. As an adult, it’s warming seeing their wild responses and cheers along the way, though the show perhaps lacks a deeper theme for us to really get our teeth into. That said, I would have probably given my left arm to be in a room with one of these polar bears when I was four. And I certainly would have fought beyond the stage for that star-balloon. The only shame was the teachers’ responses to it – I find it uplifting that children at such a young age can be so engaged in live performance, and that they cheer and laugh and comment throughout when they’re involved in an engaging piece like this. But having five teachers hissing at you for enjoying a piece of art surely won’t set a great example. It sadly shows that it’s not the children who need to open up their eyes to theatre and its importance – it’s their grumpy minders who can’t keep their eyes off their smartphones.
The Polar Bears Go Up is playing at the Unicorn Theatre until 1 May. For more information and tickets, see the Unicorn Theatre website. Photo: Richard Davenport