‘We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, what a beautiful day, we’re not scared.’ Michael Rosen’s rhythmic tale about a family which goes looking for bears is addictively popular with tots. And it's very nicely adapted here by a sweet-throated troupe of Little Angel puppeteers, in whose hands it’s become a charming, slightly alarming Saturday dad disaster story with additional folk songs.
Converting a board book to a 45-minute show is often a stretch, but this pre-school classic can take the strain. Each onomatopeic obstacle that our plucky heroes have to surmount (such as swishy swashy grass) converts ingeniously to a nifty scene and set. And the whittled wooden puppets are cute, perfectly tuned to Helen Oxenbury's wistful original illustrations, and expertly handled, particularly the swimming baby and the licking dog.
The energy drops in some scenes, especially when the makers opt for spooky ‘mild peril’, as DVD-regulators like to call it, and lose the adventurous enthusiasm in that rocking rhythm which drives the story forwards. And I could have wished that the helter skelter finale, where they do everything backwards, had been more hectic. But, as always at this treasured London venue, the production values are superb – if you have a 3-6-year old and can get them to Islington conveniently, you couldn’t wish for a sweeter introduction to theatre.
By Caroline McGinn