The Unicorn theatre superbly produces the theatrical translation of David McKee’s everlasting book Not Now, Bernard. Sarah Argent’s direction has lead this story to life, with an added depth that the literary form does not embody.
What this production offers parents is that it is the perfect alternative for those who struggle to keep their child engaged with books. Performances like Not Now, Bernard that are executed in this way, may entice your child to engage positively towards books by openly receiving text through performance.
This production is ideal for children who prefer visual engagement and it is a visual treat. On top of this, the performance presented by actors Guy Rhys, Bea Holland and Ben Adams, captivate its young audience by allowing them to be involved with the story. All cast members portray an energy that is dynamic and inviting, keeping the young audience focused.
The production is received in a positive way so that both children and adults can find the characters amusing and familiar.
Significantly, through their physical and vocal performance, the actors demonstrate the significance of play and imagination that is essential in a child’s development. Seeing adults in this way may have sparked their imaginations.
Another aspect that is worth mentioning is that, this production like the book also ambiguously explores the concept of being a ‘monster’, an idea that reoccurs in life.
The set and costumes remain true to the book’s style and exemplify Bernard’s world, thus allowing our imagination to be exhibited physically. The exciting open plan structure in which the set is constructed, pays homage to the book, the set uses large-scale colourful illustrations that act as a vibrant environment that a young audience will value.
Argent’s direction adds depth to the emotions of the 2D characters from the book, which in some ways permits clarity in interpretation(s) that the audience have been making since the book was published in 1980. An intimate way in which Argent does this is where the loneliness is marked through theatrical ambiance such as lights and music, something that cannot be achieved through the book.
What is fascinating about the direction Argent has taken in Not Now, Bernard is the awareness she demonstrates towards her target audience. In this production, Argent has taken into consideration the needs of the target audience, an example being the shadowing which clearly demonstrates Argent’s power over when/where she wants her audience to focus.
The sound design conducted by Owen Crouch compliments the production throughout; sustaining moments that have emotional significance with enhancing atmospheric sound and in many ways brings the world alive by the sounds of the TV, monster and banging of the hammer. The use of music also gives the adults an interesting perspective as it elevates Bernard’s feelings through music, which is interesting as it is a choice directed at the adults in the space. The lighting governed by Sam Waddington works hand in hand with Argent’s direction and pushes the focus of the audience towards certain areas of the stage. The bright lighting transfers energy to the vibrant set.
Unicorn theatre’s production of Not Now, Bernard gives the classic story a fresh perspective through the means of theatre, which allows it to have more depth without losing the writer’s intentions. It is fun and humorous and achieves the purpose of children’s theatre.
Not Now, Bernard is playing at the Unicorn Theatre until 1 July
Photo: Camilla Greenwell