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Sat 15th December 2018

reviews

Genevieve Cox

at 12:24 on 13th Aug 2015

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Covering issues from confused sexuality, to adequate parenting, announcements of love, and relationships with friends, Bear Hug mingles a collection of themes under the central concept of bears providing the ultimate ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’.

Although appraisable as a light-hearted, warm comedy with familiar characterisations, relatable humour and realistic potential misunderstandings, an overall sense of confusion overruled the show. This was a production that succumbed to clumsiness and messiness as opposed to successful manipulation of complex issues.

This was especially prevalent in the scene changes and management of set and props. The scene changes were noisy, despite attempts to mask it with background music; also they were choppy and often too-sudden, appearing unplanned or accidental, especially when the curtains went askew and revealed backstage to the audience.

Moreover the lighting arrangement was sometimes difficult and confused. This was especially prevalent when the stage was split into two halves with the intention of conveying both bedroom and living-room simultaneously through lighting and props, however this effect was sometimes unclear and therefore meaning was lost.

Despite these slightly-clunky lighting difficulties and set changes, the setup and manipulation of two key set features (a wardrobe-turn-cabinet and bed-turn-sofa) enabled the establishment of two separate rooms very cleverly. As well as effective design and set initiative, the acting shaped a believable production.

Ben Glaister’s portrayal of Bruce’s fatherly anxiety in confronting his son’s potential homosexuality – verbally and physically through simultaneous stuttering, squinting and nervous twitching – worked well. Both created relatable parent roles with their suspicions of Alex’s “suggestive literature” and obsessive protection of “my scotch!”; they were believable, well-presented and acted – especially as they effectively managed to maintain clear roles despite later adoption of disguises.

Rory MacKenzie’s conception of the play was ingenious and innovative as it played upon dualities: misunderstanding between parents and son, gay/straight confusion, character pairings of two male friends with two female friends, deception of trusted friends, appearance duplicates in Halloween costumes that enabled dual characters, two central set locations, and even linguistic dualities in puns!

Overall this play – a play of doubles and pairs – had potential for huge success yet unfortunately produced an overarching aura of confusion throughout. Although this was sometimes intentionally thematic at other times it was less-successfully executed hence messy and needlessly difficult to comprehend.

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Stephanie Young

at 13:30 on 13th Aug 2015

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Mermaids Performing Arts Fund’s Bear Hug is a modern farce in which a young man’s family and friends mistakenly out him as gay on the night he intends to profess his love for a woman. This piece of new writing by Rory Mackenzie challenges heteronormativity and addresses some of the stigmas surrounding LGBTQ through light comedy.

The cast of six performers from the University of St. Andrews are a lively bunch whose energy brings this simplistic piece to life. However, the performances are often stilted. The actors appear to be ‘going through the motions’ when delivering their lines and gestures; they rarely give indication of their character having spontaneous thought. I am sure the performers will make an effort to reinvigorate their roles as they settle into the run.

The central character, Alex (Angus James Russell), is likeable. His best friend, Tim (Tom Giles), however, is less appealing. Giles’ portrayal is repetitive and a little uncomfortable as his lines are nearly always delivered in profile. Giles’ performance would thrive by opening it out to the audience. Sarah (Cara Mahoney) and Anna (Isabelle Arnson) are more natural on stage, rendering their characters more convincing.

The set is basic but appropriate; the presence of a wardrobe sets up several ‘coming out of the closet’ jokes. Anything fussier would be a distraction, and, in fact, the numerous set changes are disruptive given the short running time.

I appreciated the ‘bear’ puns initially, but they became tiresome and the comedy faltered. On the whole, the writing could be more sophisticated. The characters are surprisingly one-dimensional given the complex nature of the content. This is perhaps a stylistic choice: if the characters are read as types rather than individuals, then Fay Morrice and Ben Glaister’s depictions of the overbearing mother and blundering father are quite successful.

The farce really comes into force at the climax of the action: Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ serves as a backdrop to a silent film-style sequence where characters muddle their way on and off stage into a resolution. The performers should strive to maintain this comedic momentum for the play’s conclusion.

Presenting its audience with a queer studies graduate, a sexist Hugh Hefner Halloween costume, and a group of characters struggling not to make gay slurs, Bear Hug illustrates modern society’s grapple with political correctness.

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