Before I Was a Bear
Reviewed – 14th November 2019
“Jacoba Williams is a powerhouse. She has an infectious energy, a warmth and an honesty and a bluntness that it is impossible not to connect with”
Before I Was A Bear is a surprising, funny, moving piece of brilliance on stage. A dancing bear opens the play, by which I mean Jacoba Williams, our performer, in a head to toe bear costume. She pulls the head off, and places it over a red light that shines through the bears eye sockets. This is just one example of Martha Godfrey’s fantastic lighting choices that constantly reinvent the space the play is taking place in.
“I’m Cally. And I used to be like you,” Williams says. She is talking, of course, about the time before she was a bear.
Eleanor Tindall’s play takes us on an unpredictable and captivating journey that delves into friendship, the awakening and navigation of sexuality, how older men look at young women, bad sex, good sex, straight sex, queer sex and celebrity worship to name but a few of the stops on the way. Based on the Greek myth of Callisto, Tindall uses a decidedly contemporary voice to talk about gender inequality, slut shaming and isolation.
Jacoba Williams is a powerhouse. She has an infectious energy, a warmth and an honesty and a bluntness that it is impossible not to connect with. Her lively direct address to the audience is splintered by moments of bear – scratching, trying and failing to open a packet of crisps, pain. These moments are shaped by different lighting combinations which silhouette and shadow and illuminate Williams alternately. The set, designed by Grace Venning, is minimal, two painted blocks with red undersides that echo the bear heads red eyes. The production is beautifully crafted as a whole, credit to the skilled and cohesive direction of Aneesha Srinivasan whose handling of pace is spot on.
‘Before I Was A Bear’ is a bold, comic, dark piece that is showcased in a flawless production brimming with talent.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Tara Rooney
Before I Was a Bear
The Bunker until 23rd November
Previously reviewed at this venue: