We’ve had lots of amazing festival experiences this month, but one of my personal favourites has to be taking Alfie to The Grand Hotel to see A Boy and a Bear in a Boat. Based on the book by Dave Shelton, it’s a gentle tale pretty much summed up by the title. The two protagonists are on a short journey in the bear’s boat, Harriet, which turns out to be epic, and the play catalogues their adventures and conversations along the way with lots of humour and silliness innately appealing to children. It’s never explained why the bear and boy are in the boat in the first place and the meaning is open to interpretation, including the boy has lost his mother and the bear is his father trying to navigate the stormy waters of grief, while doing his best to protect his son, or is it just a tale of the ups and downs of friendship?
From a theatrical perspective, this production was exquisitely acted with a small, clever set and interesting devices used to depict the various places they find themselves. Alfie was laughing out loud at the bear slurping his tea and there were a couple of jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but I won’t spoil the surprise. Great for grown-ups, too – it reminded me of Pinter! It’s on tour at libraries and theatres in the Midlands this month, so if you’re in Derby, London, Houghton Regis, Leighton Buzzard, Corby or Bedford, then book now. Find details of venues here.