Three Bears is a one-man show that, to my surprise, will keep tots thoroughly engaged despite requiring a decent dose of imagination and attention. It's easy to slip into the habit of choosing entertainment for your little ones that you know will keep them glued to their seats. For me, this means something my daughter already knows and loves, usually based around her favourite cartoon, or a show that is choc-full of familiar songs, fast-moving action and some kind of all-singing-all-dancing set – nothing that requires any more than the attention span of a gnat. On this occasion I wasn't sure what to expect, and I'll admit to begin with I panicked. The set was simple, the cast minimal (one very fine young performer Andy Owens) and it soon became obvious this show was going to involve mostly dialogue punctuated with just the occasional unknown tune. I braced myself for the inevitable wriggling and complaining, but it didn't happen. My daughter listened. Intently. For an hour!
Three Bears comprises three classic tales about bears, the last of which is the one about the porridge and the blonde intruder you already know. The first explains how the bear lost its tail and the fox gained his. The second is a longer far more complex fairy-tale that was completely new to me and my daughter (I don't want to give the plot away but it had the rudiments of Beauty and the Beast and involved a man who was turned into a bear, various trolls and castles and true love). Now, I won't lie, the story that got the audience (average age 4.5 I would say) most excited and animated was the one they already knew – of course, kids love familiarity – but the second tale was so expertly and jovially delivered that it was hard not to be swept up in the narrative (a well-timed break to allow the kids to jump about a bit and have a shout helped too).
By the end of the show I started to feel nostalgic for days of yore, when we'd all gather round the campfire and tell tales, before smartphones and tablets diminished our ability to enjoy real life (or even just live real life). I also realised that perhaps I had underestimated my daughter's ability to focus and enjoy simple things. I suppose when a show is simple and skillful, that's when the magic happens. It's easier to hurl a million second-rate things at a person than one brilliant thing.
Also, it's Christmas, and there was a very moving part during the performance when the set was lit with twinkling stars and Owens introduced Ursa Major and Ursa Minor - the bear constellations. Is there anything more grounding and yet more magical than little faces looking up in wonder at the stars? I think not.
Three Bears is a simple delight.