Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Bear


Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
It may begin with a growl and a roar behind a frosted-glass fronted cube, but by the time writer/performer Angela Clerkin and director Lee Simpson's quasi-autobiographical study of barely-repressed anger has offloaded some eighty minutes later, something even less cuddly has emerged. If that sounds like heavy weather, don't be too alarmed, as Clerkin's co-production with Improbable Theatre and Ovalhouse is infinitely playful to the point of being overloaded, throwing everything from faux noir stylings and 1970s political cabaret to murder mystery shenanigans and even a sudden burst of Irish dancing into the mix.

Dressed in a black lounge suit, Clerkin explains how a stint as an out of work actress turned solicitor's clerk led her on an after-hours adventure in search of the bear that a man on trial for murdering his wife claims is the actual guilty party. As she navigates her way through the big city jungle of Kilburn pubs with eccentric aunties, ambitious lawyers and mentally unstable witnesses, Clerkin turns detective, even as she falls prey to her own animal instincts while chasing her own tail.

Devised by Clerkin and Simpson from a short story penned by the pair, Clerkin has Guy Dartnell, a man twice her size, play all other parts as well as letting rip a slow blues. The result of all this, with notable in-put from Warhorse designer Rae Smith's all-purpose cube and Nick Powell's music is an appealingly quirky if slightly guddled self-reflexive piece of anger-management therapy dressed up as theatre. We all have a grizzly bear inside of us, Clerkin is saying, but brightly, and sometimes living with it can be murder.

The Herald, May 21st 2013

ends

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