One the Bear is a vibrant new creation by Brown Honey Company, starring Candy Bowers and Nancy Denis as two cheeky brown bears inhabiting a universe far from here (but not so far). The tale that is told is the journey of One, played by Bowers, as the brown bear struggles against systemic disadvantage to become a universal pop star, and the perils that fame brings.
But that simple story line belies the sheer awesome florescence of the piece, with its glow-in-the-dark set, wild party outfits and interstellar hip-hop soundtrack with original banging club tracks augmenting every scene. This is something I have never seen before, hip-hop theatre, and it surely jumps to the beat.
It’s also a vibrant piece of real clever writing that simultaneously entertains the teen audience and smashes up dominant cultural paradigms. It’s super clever, and there’s a reason why there’s a million glorious reviews out there.
Candy Bowers has set out to pull the system to pieces, railing against the challenges of being an ‘other’ in a tightly defined space.
It’s often easy to forget, but to decolonise is an active verb, not an descriptor, not a lofty goal, not a wasted dream. Decolonisation is an action, not an abstract concept. And it can be as simple as putting a new shape in an old box, a less-seen colour on a jaded set, a rarely-seen rhyme on a prestigious stage. Decolonisation is worthy work, but it doesn’t have to feel worthy. It can feel like a whole lot of fun.
This lively theatre show dives headfirst into the murky mess of racism, invisibility, cultural appropriation, oppression and regression. And it does it so flawlessly, it makes it feel good, inside, outside, backstage, mainstage.
The faces of the younger audience members were amazing. There were teens with the brightest eyes you ever saw, mouths open, making silent growls and elbowing their mates. There was chair dancing. Pretty much everyone in the room was having a rollicking good time.
There’s a lot of really complicated things going on here, but there’s a lot of really simple things too.
It’s storytelling, and it follows some of the oldest story lines. How to be a good friend, how to be true to oneself, struggle and attainment, trust and truth, the perils of the system, the hard truths we have to overcome.
What I didn’t expect, is that it would be so joyous. It’s cute. It’s clever. The whole show rhymes. It doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff, but it sure puts a lot of energy into being awesome.
I don’t want to wax too lyrical about how this kind of work is going to change the world. It doesn’t need me to do that. It’s not my place to break it down for you… These artists are already getting it done. It’s going to get out there and be seen by all the kids who need it more than all the arts aficionados who read my writing. It’s going to do real work, clever work, out there in schools and theatres and festivals.
The revolution is coming, and the beats are wild.
One the Bear is showing at La Boite Theatre until October 21 2017
One | Candy Bowers
Ursula | Nancy Denis
Cover Image | Hana Schlesinger
Writer | Candy Bowers
Composer And Sound Designer | Busty Beatz
Set Designer | Jason Wing
Costume Designer | Sarah Seahorse
Lighting Designer | Verity Hampson
Video Designer | Optikal Bloc
Stage Manager | Hope Haami
Sound Operator And Assistant Stage Manager | Hayley Forward
Directorial Eye And Dramaturgy | Claire Christian
Directorial Eye | Susie Dee
Dramaturgy | Sista Zai Zanda
Images by Adam Brunes