Review: Dancing Bear

The Palace Theatre (Queer Contact)

Premiering as part of Queer Contact, Dancing Bear at the Palace Theatre is a brave and bold new musical, which grabbed the audience’s attention from the moment it began. The performance was a whirlwind, exploring the challenging issues of faith, sexuality and gender identity through a mixture of theatre, music and dance.

The play follows two main threads: the story of a bear who wants nothing more than to dance, and goes on a journey to find creatures like itself in the forest; and the deeply personal and moving stories of the company. These threads are interlocked through musical numbers, which explore a number of different themes.

The story of the bear was beautiful and relatable. I’m sure that many of us have been in a similar situation – feeling as though there is more to us than the way other people view us, as though we are ‘other’. The journey of self discovery told through dance took the audience on an extremely emotional journey as the bear shed its skin and became its true self.

Alongside this, the personal stories of the company were genuine and heartfelt. It was obvious that the cast were deeply connected to the play, and having the opportunity to hear the perspectives of the cast and their journeys through faith and identity was both heartbreaking and uplifting. The music helped to bring these stories to life, with choral chants reminiscent of a church choir, eerie songs that told stories (and the occasional song that made me want to dance in my seat!).

Although beautiful overall, the play did feel a little rough around the edges. I felt invested in everything going on, but perhaps would have preferred for the entire play to have focussed on the bear or the company. Sometimes the performances felt as though they needed some refinement.

That said, Dancing Bear is worth a watch – and a particular mention should go to their fantastic integration of BSL, which featured prominently and integrated beautifully into the piece. Exploring faith and the LGBTQ community and topical, relevant and difficult to handle at the best of times. Dancing Bear took the audience on a journey using both humour and hard-hitting drama that certainly had me thinking about the journeys I have taken, and where I would like to end up.

This performance has now ended.  For more info on Queer Contact and up coming shows visit their website.

© M.Holland 2018

Dancing Bear

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