“Are we nearly there yet?” asks the Boy, crouched in a bright green anorak and blinking wide eyed at the surrounding sea. The reply comes from a ukulele-playing polar bear sea captain who eats broccoli and sherbet sandwiches. This oddball pair and their rowing boat travels are the basis of A Boy and a Bear in a Boat, an endearing children’s show set at sea.
Adapted from Dave Shelton’s book, A Boy and a Bear in a Boat really does what it says on the tin. It’s a simple concept, but details such as its quirky humour, puppetry and the occasional maritime song form something quite charming.
The Bear constantly warns of “unexpected dangers”, and said dangers form the more exciting moments of the show. One of these is the attack of a sea monster to the boat, where the Bear dynamically wrestles with the imaginary monster, complete with sound effects composed by actor-musician Ivan Scott.
Children’s theatre always works best when you sit back and accept everything that happens. We accept the fact that a boy has somehow ended up on a boat with a polar bear for a captain, and accept that it is possible to make a pot of Earl Grey on a rowing boat. This unquestioning acceptance truly transports us into the mindset of children, and is what makes A Boy and a Bear in a Boat so endearing. Not only are the younger audience members captivated, but we too are immersed into this quaint sea world and suspend our disbelief from the word go.
And the children do absolutely love this, but they are more enthralled by the dynamically physical scenes. After all, it’s no easy task to hold the attention of a six-year-old for an hour. They lose focus a bit during the dialogue-based scenes; although it would be a shame to lose these touching moments, it seems the younger members of the audience aren’t as enamoured. And naturally, the focus of children is pivotal in a show for children.
Nonetheless, A Boy and a Bear in a Boat is great family entertainment, and even better that it takes place in a library. A charming little tale, but slightly tame in places – even for children.
A Boy and a Bear in a Boat is playing at the National Library of Scotland (Venue 147) until August 22nd (not 18th). For more information, visit the Fringe website.