Cranky Bear is based upon the book – The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland. Patch Theatre Company has created a (kind of) cabaret style show from the book, which (to cut a kids story short) is about a Moose, Zebra, Lion and Sheep trying to help a cranky bear to not be so cranky.
The story transfers well to the stage. It’s a great tale for the four to eight year age range.There are six scenes, all divided up; introduced by our narrator type guide, and some written signs which he holds up, that clearly splits up the scenes and also to a small degree, the progression of story. But it does (I think) cleverly introduce the young audience to the stage play form.
It mostly works very well, having the effect of creating a series of vignettes, or almost individual stories to reach the end result – the final scene, where the kind and thoughtful sheep makes a pillow out of her wool and gives it to the cranky bear, who then becomes un-cranky. The kids get some valuable messages about caring, problem solving, team work and consideration for others.
I always remind myself when seeing a young children’s show that it’s them, the children, who are the best judges of a new kids show; they know what they like and in this case they love it; engaged throughout, calling out often, and loads of laughs.
[pull_left]The show is a face paced mix-up of dress-ups, musical theatre, story-telling and lots of silliness[/pull_left]
The show is a face paced mix-up of dress-ups, musical theatre, story-telling and lots of silliness; and it is that large dose of delightful silliness pulled off perfectly by excellent performances from the cast that sees this show come out winning. Kids just love “silly” and Cranky Bear has oodles of it! And yep, the adults (me included) were often laughing too!
Stephen Sheehan is marvellous as Moose and the scene introducer, bringing a warm, funny and comfortable touch to the proceedings. Jude Henshall is a bubbling ball of show-girl energy and subtly sheep-shy as Lion and Sheep, and Tim Overton shows he has just what it takes to rope the little tackers into the magic – as Zebra and Scary Bear. They all sing, dance and play musical instruments, as well as carry off the story… and they don’t miss a beat, in any of the genres.
This devised work, uses a steady stream of songs – with simple well put together lyrics by Bland and a range of devices to keep it all moving along, including a short segment with some children from the audience being included in the stories passage forward.
Tight direction by Dave Brown, catchy composition and arrangement by Belinda Gehiert, great lighting from Geoff Cobham, and a set that suits this animal romp very well – this show is certainly a nice treat for the kids. This well-made piece has loads happening in a reasonably short show time and it didn’t leave me feeling the slightest bit cranky – in fact, exactly the opposite!