Jacoba Williams gives an energetic and intriguing musing on childhood and relationships – ★★★
A young woman in a bear suit walks on stage before twerking to Katy B’s On A Mission. It may well sound farcical, but the message behind The Bunker Theatre’s Before I Was A Bear is in fact incredibly raw – pun not intended.
A speeding monologue from Williams, it is instead honest and confessional. Her character, Cally, tells us everything from her sex life, to her undying admiration for a TV actor known as Jonathan Bolt, to her confusion over the Waterloo and City line. “Who actually uses that,” she asks, in a relatable line sharply delivered in this pacy production.
Though unusual in its visual approach, playwright Eleanor Tindall’s script is traditional in its supposed three-part structure. It begins with a whistle-stop tour through the school years which only really serves to establish the friendships at its heart. Its move towards a chance encounter in a London pub is far more interesting, however, as the emotions run wild.
It’s exploration of various topics is equally fast-paced – from celebrity to sexual identity and relationships. While Williams shifts between characters and scenes with a confident, free-flowing rhythm, its central narrative feels a little lost in amongst it all before emerging at the last minute.
In 85 minutes, we really are taken on quite the emotional journey – its many twists and turns proving to be weird, wonderful and oddly curious.
Before I Was A Bear is now playing at The Bunker Theatre until 23 November.
Disclaimer: I was invited to see Before I Was A Bear for free as someone who is currently a part of the Almeida Theatre’s Young Critics scheme, which sees us respond to artistic pieces. I was not explicitly requested to review the show, but as part of the scheme I was asked to produce a piece of creative writing in response to the play. I did not receive any payment for any of this, and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.